The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman
Lillian Dunkle, the former Malka Treynovsky, is a Russian émigré who brashly and unapologetically tells her life story of how she became the world-renowned owner of an American empire.
As the story unfolds we are witness to her life experiences but soon the persona of Lillian becomes increasingly ribald and bitter. Convinced that an early family rivalry follows her destiny, she becomes consumed and starts acting more obsessive, demanding, and harsh. Lillian knows she is being irrational but she can’t help herself.
Halfway through, this autobiographical novel loses its flavor as the tale is reduced to little more than Lillian’s self-pity party. While we know the reason for her erratic and selfish behavior, it evokes little sympathy. I immediately envisioned the reincarnation of Leona Helmsley.
The copious historical and cultural references are what save this story, although Millennials may have a hard time keeping up.
All in all, when you finally get to the end of the story you can say with sweet satisfaction that Lillian gets her just desserts.
Order in Bibz.