Monday, March 31, 2014

Book #2: Palisades Park

Before the days of Disney World and Disney Land, before the days of Kings Dominion and Sea World and Cedar Point, there was Palisades Amusement Park.  It was just a few minutes from my childhood home on the top of a cliff on the Hudson River in New Jersey.  They had rides and carnival games, shows and a salt water pool that made waves.  This book, Palisades Park by Alan Brennert tells all about it.
The book starts way back in the 1920's and takes the reader through the entire life of the park until it closed in the 1970's.  I remember the closing of the park very well.  I don't think anyone ever thought the park would close.  There was actually a bit of community grieving over the closing.  The story is told through the eyes of the Stopka family.  They grew up as part of the family of amusement park workers.  The book mentions towns and streets very familiar to me from years ago.  Even many of the family names are historically accurate to that area.  Stores and hospitals are mentioned that I grew up around.  Telling the history of the park through the personal story of the family keeps the book from reading like a history book.
So, would I recommend it?  If you have any ties to this area - a definite YES.  If you like carnival stories or historical fiction - yes.  Otherwise....maybe.  I enjoyed it a lot, but I don't know if the fictional story would hold enough interest if one isn't particularly interested in the history of the park itself or the history of that area of New Jersey.  I thought my sister would also enjoy the book and indeed she did!  She had already finished it before I had the chance to share my discovery of it with her.  It's a fun historical look at local culture and the influences of more national issues (such as wars, integration, and local small town politics) on the everyday lives of Palisades Amusement Park.

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