Floating in the Neversink by Andrea Simon
In the summer of 1955, nine-year-old Amanda Gerber tearfully leaves her best friend, Francine, and their adventurous life on her block in Brooklyn’s Flatbush. She joins her cantankerous family on the long, hot drive to her grandmother’s home in the Catskill Mountains among the city’s Jews who flock to countless hotels and bungalow colonies in the heyday of the Borscht Belt. In the idyllic mountains, Amanda becomes ensconced in the tumult of her extended family and their friends, often seeking solace in the woods with her beloved cousin Laura.
Through the following summers, interspersed with the heightened drama of her emotionally charged city life, Mandy faces severe tests to her survival mechanisms, including the pain of loss, abuse, and betrayal, while family secrets threaten to disrupt her life even further. A novel-in-stories, Floating in the Neversink is a testament to the power of survival, friendship, and love.
October 2nd, 2019
Historical Fiction/Coming of Age Fiction
I am always drawn to coming of age books and was intrigued when I read that Floating in the Neversink was a novel told through a collection of “coming of age” stories. The narrator is a pre-teen living in the mid-1950s. Nine-year-old Mandy travels to the Catskills with her family and is mourning the loss of her best friend Francine and life back at home in Brooklyn.
While I have never been to the Catskills, author Andrea Simon’s detailed writing helped me imagine what daily life looked like during this time. The 1950s Borscht Belt was detailed so beautifully that I felt transported there myself. Simon’s writing also brought back memories of my own summer adventures at a child.
While many of the stories include light-hearted moments and observations, there are heavier topics interspersed that give this book a level of depth and introspection. I especially loved how mental health and abuse were covered in a thoughtful yet powerful manner. The stories weaved together childhood friendship, loyalty, secrets, betrayal and finding your true self and voice.
I found that the “story format” worked well with Mandy narrating a snapshot of her life. These stories included many things that a preteen would be focusing on while also incorporating the darker parts of her daily life. In a time when many more complicated issues were often “swept under the rug” and not discussed, this was a fascinating way of sharing this story.