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The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

by Susan Jane Gilman

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I adored this book from start to finish! I didn't realize how lengthy it was at first because of the e-book format I was reading from, but it certainly was a quick read so don't let that put you off. It's main character, Lil, is a pip. Her strong, forceful personality grabs you from the get go, and leads you through the trials and tribulations of her life as she goes from poor immigrant to wealthy ice cream queen. Just be wary of one thing though, you will definitely be craving ice cream before you've turned the last page! ( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
A little hard to stay focused. ( )
  LASMIT | Dec 6, 2016 |
Some grandmothers are warm and loving. Other grandmothers are like Lillian Dunkle, born Malka Treynovsky. She's not the chocolate chip cookie baking and caring, pillowy hugs type of grandmother. She might be the Ice Cream Queen but she's more of the stand-offish, critical, Leona Helmsley type of grandmother in Susan Jane Gilman's novel The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street.

Little Malka Treynovsky and her family immigrate to the US by mistake. Well, it's a mistake for Malka's mother and siblings but her father preferred it to South Africa, where the rest of his wife's family had fled from Russia in the early 1900s, and Malka has always felt more special to her father than to her mother so she abets him in the switch, earning her mother's undying resentment. The Treynovskys are rechristened the Bialystokers, land in New York City and end up in the tenements with so many other immigrants. The family suffers many misfortunes, always short on money and barely making ends meet. When Malka's Papa deserts the family, the four young girls must find a way to help supplement their mother's meager income and it is then that Malka becomes an entrepreneur. But she is not destined to stay with her cold and angry mother and her beloved sisters. She is run over in the street by a horse-drawn cart, suffers a terrible injury to her leg, and when she is subsequently abandoned at the pauper's hospital where she's taken to recover, the man who ran her over, Salvatore Dinello, takes her home to his warm, Catholic Italian family. Working at Dinello's Ices, she is introduced to the business of ice cream, even if she is never quite accepted wholeheartedly by all members of the family. In fact, not being a real Dinello sets her on the path to enormous success, bitter revenge, constant confrontations, and the need to prove herself as she and her husband eventually build up Dunkle's Ice Cream to be a manufacturer to be reckoned with.

Told by Lillian in the 1980s as she faces an indictment or two for bad behavior and tax evasion, the novel is a chronicle of a spectacular rags to riches story starting back at the turn of the century. The story is told directly to the reader, with Lillian addressing the reader from time to time, almost daring the reader to judge her. She should embody the American Dream: a poor Russian Jewish immigrant who came to this country with little besides the coat on her back who makes it to the opulent world of the rich and famous. But Lillian is a cantankerous, unrepentant grump. She's abrasive and conniving and driven. But if Lillian is sometimes overbearing and incredibly unlikable, she's also a survivor. And feisty. She's got a razor sharp business acumen, at least for many years, and she's not afraid of obstacles. With an early life characterized by poverty, lacking both money and of love, the reader can find just enough sympathy with her caustic character to keep reading her story. Gilman's drawing of early twentieth century New York City, its immigrant neighborhoods, and the smelly, crowded reality of them is very well done. Given that the novel spans eighty or so years, there is a lot of ground to cover and occasionally it bogs down in all of the historical eras it must pass through. Lillian's character can be a bit stereotypically Jewish, especially in her speech and she is often either angry or unhappy so there's little cheer, even in success. That Gilman took the basic (although quite different) origin story for Carvel Ice Cream and turned it into this tale of the American Dream and its costs is fascinating indeed. She is a skilled writer and in the end, this is a complex and involved saga spanning many decades, amazing inventions, and historically significant events. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jul 2, 2016 |
This is a big (too big, really) big, fun 500 page novel, based on some truth, about Malka Treynovsky, the inventor of franchising and her husband Bert, who created soft ice cream. Ostensibly about the Carvel family, there are many elements that seem too fanciful, not the least of which is a little starving Jewish immigrant child being taken in by an Italian family when she runs into their pushcart full of ices and her leg is mangled. The monster created by all this hardship is Lillian Dunkle, who is screwed out of her ice cream inheritance by her "brothers" while on her honeymoon, and performs cutthroat deeds to extract her revenge. She becomes fabulously wealthy from her product but is never happy and usually succeeds in making everyone around her miserable. Well, except those of us who believe that Carvel is THE gold standard for ice cream. Way too long and with recurring episodes that become tedious, this would still be an enjoyable beach read, especially for the Lower East Side world gone by, which is so very vividly sketched. ( )
  froxgirl | Apr 4, 2016 |
I won this book in exchange for an honest review.

A historical novel which chronicles the life of a fictitious business woman who raises from the slums of the early 20th century New York to become the Ice Cream Queen of the United States.

Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her Jewish family as a very young child. The family, originally destined for South Africa, ends up in NYC where Malka suffers an accident, is abandoned by her family and taken in by an Italian ices pedder. The novel goes through 70 years of Malka's life, now known as Lillian Dunkle, and her rise to fame.

This is an overall well written story. The author, Susan Jane Gilman, does an admirable job of portraying early 20th century New York and the hardships experienced by many new immigrants. What Ms. Gilman creates with her character Malka/Lillian is well thought out character who, in her old age, has been molded and formed by her past. Lillian struggles with poverty, alienation, being unloved, abandonment, prohibition and two world wars. Most importantly, she is a woman struggling to make something out of herself in a male dominated world.

Lillian's life-story is interspersed with the present. She is at a point in her life where she is reflecting on the events that have lead her to where she is. The chapters in her life are seamlessly woven in the story giving the novel a good reading pace.

However, Lillian, although a strong enough character is not necessarily a likable one. She is manipulative, over-bearing and somewhat cold, but when you put her past into perspective, you realize that the author created an individual who is just really afraid of losing everything she loves and creates.

Other characters such as her husband, son and grandson are not as strong or dominant and although crucial to the story, it was all Lillian.

My one (maybe two) caveats, the author's reliance on the stereotypical Yiddish use of "So sue me" or "Darlings"; the first couple of times it was amusing but then becomes used ad-nauseam which detracts from the strong figure of Lillian.

Overall, a good read. ( )
  NancyNo5 | Mar 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
This entertaining novel underscores how the whole debate about whether female novelists and their female characters face a greater burden to be “likable,” sparked by the novels and thoughts of Claire Messud, Meg Wolitzer and others last year, is beside the point. Lillian Dunkle is sometimes sympathetic, sometimes reprehensible, but always fascinating. And that, darlings, is all that matters in telling a good story.
added by ozzer | editDallas News, JENNY SHANK (Jun 28, 2014)
 

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446578932, Hardcover)

In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, "The Ice Cream Queen" -- doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Lillian's rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:08 -0400)

Lillian's rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.… (more)

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