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Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

The Ice Cream QueenReading this novel about the rise and fall of an ice cream doyenne is sort of like eating a banana split: it starts out yummy but soon the novelty wears off and it’s hard to finish it all.

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.

– Susan

Order in Bibz.

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