The Bookie's Son

The Bookie's Son

4.6 3
by Andrew Goldstein

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The year is 1960 and the place is the Bronx. All twelve-year-old Ricky Davis wants to do is play stickball with his friends and flirt with the building super's daughter. But when his father crosses gangster Nathan Glucksman and goes into hiding, Ricky has to take over his father's bookie business and figure out a way to pay back his debt-before the gangsters make


The year is 1960 and the place is the Bronx. All twelve-year-old Ricky Davis wants to do is play stickball with his friends and flirt with the building super's daughter. But when his father crosses gangster Nathan Glucksman and goes into hiding, Ricky has to take over his father's bookie business and figure out a way to pay back his debt-before the gangsters make good on their threats. Meanwhile, Ricky's mother, Pearl, a fading beauty of failed dreams, plots to raise the money by embezzling funds from one of her boss's clients: Elizabeth Taylor.

Fast-paced, engrossing and full of heart, The Bookie's Son paints the picture of a family forced to decide just how much they're willing to sacrifice for each other-and at what cost.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing from his own life, Goldstein's powerful debut follows the retrospective misadventures of 12-year-old Ricky Davis, the "thin, anemic" son of Pearl, an aging Bronx beauty who once dreamed of silver screen stardom, and Harry, a garment worker with a pernicious gambling habit. When Harry falls into debt with mobster Nathan Glucksman, he is conscripted as a goon with Ricky in tow. Befitting a Bronx-born Jew of the '60s, the son is no naïf: when Harry goes into hiding, Ricky assumes the role of full-time bookie, hoping to save his family. Meanwhile, Pearl—who works reading movie scripts—formulates a plan to rip off Elizabeth Taylor, one of her boss's clients. In addition to filling his father's shoes, Ricky must navigate the battlefields of adolescence—rife with wayward libido, pervasive dysfunction, frank racism, and an everyday desperation of the kind that prompts a mother to suggest casually to her pregnant daughter: "Let's go shoplift some clothes at Alexander's." Part urban YA Bildungsroman, part Portnoy's Complaint, this is not the subtlest of stories, but neither was the Bronx the subtlest of neighborhoods. (May)
Library Journal
Life is hard enough when you are facing a Bar Mitzvah with a total inability to remember any Hebrew. Factor in a job as a junior bookie, a few gangsters, and a grandmother prone to extortion through fake injuries, and Ricky Davis's transition to manhood becomes a trial by fire, at turns comical and horrifying. With a family deep in debt to a loan shark, Ricky is preoccupied with finding ways to raise money and helping to hide his father from a beating from the Spratz brothers. While his father dreams up more impractical schemes and his mother plots a way to embezzle movie star bank accounts, his grandmother's intentional fall in a store puts her in the hospital. All of Ricky's plans, including betting on a fixed horse race, collapse. Yet even as things get darker, Ricky finds a way to endure. He finally gets the best of a neighborhood bully, lip-syncs his Hebrew, and learns about courage from a tailor. VERDICT You can almost smell and feel the grit of the Bronx in 1960. Ricky's family is over the top but touchingly real. This debut novel makes for a good summer read.—Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC

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(sixoneseven) books
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5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.56(d)

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Meet the Author

Andrew Goldstein is in the third act of his adult life. Act I: Husband, writer, tree planter, assistant librarian, organic orange and olive farmer, school bus driver, Zamboni driver, editor, tennis pro, stock broker, power transformer tube winder. Act II: Father, no longer writer, custom builder, youth soccer coach. Act III: Grandfather, table tennis player, writer again, lives in Concord, Massachusetts and enjoys waking up each morning to the birds chirping and the day that awaits him. The Bookie's Son is his first novel.

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The Bookie's Son 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
The Bookie's Son by Andrew Gold­stein is a com­ing of age novel set in the 1960s. This is the author’s debut novel and I hope he will pen a few more. Ricky Davis is the son of a col­lec­tor agent to a Jew­ish crime lord, gam­bler and, of course, a bookie. Grow­ing up to a poor fam­ily in the Bronx dur­ing the 1960s is tough and the reader is intro­duce to many col­or­ful char­ac­ters, hap­pi­ness and tragedy dur­ing Ricky’s teenage years. The Davis fam­ily is also in the dire straits due to Mr. Davis’ addic­tion, but young Ricky has a plan. He will help his fam­ily out of the dire sit­u­a­tion to a bet­ter life. The Bookie’s Son by Andrew Gold­stein is an intel­li­gent and funny novel about a some­what dys­func­tional, yet lov­ing fam­ily in the 60s. Part a fam­ily story, part a com­ing of age story, the book grabs the reader’s atten­tion on almost every page. The strength of the novel is on its use of dia­logue, the author man­ages to cap­ture the style of the Bronx and the rhythm of the lan­guage with a few Yid­dish words to spice it all up. The author man­ages to cap­ture the sounds of the streets and fam­i­lies in a very human sense. I admired the way Mr. Gold­stein encap­su­lated how kids talk dif­fer­ently on the street than they do at home. Ricky becomes a man dur­ing these tur­bu­lent times. He learns his lim­i­ta­tions but also what can be accom­plished when one puts his mind to a task. The young boy becomes a man while see­ing his father, his hero, being beaten down lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively; dis­cov­er­ing that the world is not black and white and that the bad guys often win. The book com­bines humor and drama together in a sen­si­ble way. You never know when one will start and the other will end. The char­ac­ters are writ­ten very well, it’s hard to imag­ine that this is the first book the author has published.
Lindas_Opinion More than 1 year ago
Ricky Davis is just your average Jewish American boy. At twelve, he lives in the Bronx with his mother and father and maternal grandmother. His Bar Mitzvah is coming up. It's important; he's about to become a man. His life is just like every other average American boy's life. Except. Except that his father is a bookie who's in Dutch with a loan shark. Except the loan shark has two goons with muscles, guns and real bad attitudes. Except the loan shark is in love with Ricky's mom. Except the loan shark is a repugnant slug who will do anything--and expects anything--for the repayment of this debt. So Ricky takes bets for his father, who's gone on the lam, trying his best to keep his whacky grandma from answering the phone. Through Ricky's eyes, author Goldstein introduces a wild, wonderful and reprehensible cast of characters, most of whom no boy should ever know, and leads us through the summer that Ricky Davis became a man. Goldstein's writing is nothing short of lyrical. With genuine voice and the rhythmic cadence of dialogue, he has captured this family, this place, with heartbreaking honesty. Sometimes hysterical, sometimes gripping, occasionally horrible, The Bookie's Son is an unforgettable glimpse at a family that's just like everybody else--except.
SandyNathan More than 1 year ago
I was charmed by this book before opening it. First, the title. The Bookie’s Son. Titillating and a bit shocking. Who has a bookie for a dad? I must have been fated to read this book because the couple on the cover look quite a bit like my parents in the early 1960s. I was positively inclined toward it immediately. The book delivers on its promise. The story unfolds as twelve-year-old Ricky Davis comes home, goes into his parents’ bedroom and begins taking bets for his father’s bookmaking business. His whacky grandmother wanders around, with and without her teeth and bowl of Jell-O. The scene was so bizarre that I thought, This is going to be an hysterically funny family drama, sort of like Leave It to Beaver, but with betting on the ponies on the side. Not quite. Very soon, the forces behind the gambling enterprise appear. Mafioso-like gangsters run betting. In this case, it’s the Jewish Mafia. Thugs as scary as you’ll encounter in literature show up. Ricky’s dad is in big trouble. The author leads the reader by the hand as the family struggles to save itself. Goldstein’s writing is so good, it’s like being with this incredibly disturbed, dysfunctional group of people. The Davis family would drive phalanxes of marriage and family counselors to their knees. Yet they love each other. These people care about each other and are bonded. I loved this book. I’m not going to add more about the plot, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Mr. Goldstein’s writing is marvelous. He delivers very disturbing, terrifying material very well, as well as the funniest scenes you’ll ever read. I sat in my family room with my dogs staring at me because I was laughing so hard. Goldstein’s story and characters show great emotional depth and range. His weird and very empathetic characters are developed with perfectly paced and very well written prose. The author packs his work with great imagination and verve. Highly recommended! I noted “Two Thumbs Enthusiastically Up!” in this review’s title. I have a new practice. If I receive a book to review and I really like it, I pass it on to my husband. He is a very bright, well-educated, and articulate man. (Of course he is, I married him.) He represents the market for the books I accept for review. He loved this book. Listening to him laughing, practically rolling off the sofa, at the same scenes I did was delightful. (This is about to become a 3 thumbs-up review. Our daughter is reading the book and likes it as much as we did.) Mr. Goldstein, roll out your next work. We’re ready. [I received a complementary copy to read and review.]