A Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of June 2014
A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, June 2014
Selected for the June 2014 Indie Next List
Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
A June 2014 LibraryReads Pick
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.
“The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street is a wonderful read, by turns poignant and wickedly funny. This is the immigrant story updated, with a brazenly reimagined American anti-hero, and delicious all along the way.”
Kevin Baker, New York Times bestselling author
“We all scream [for] Susan Jane Gilman’s novel.”
“Suspenseful and bittersweet…Gilman, who has a gift for realistic dialogue, has composed an incredibly engrossing read.”
“A familiar schmatta-to-silk brocade story of immigrant New York….polished yet pointed, deceptively cheery but shaded in the sinister—an upside-down, funhouse treat.”
“Big-hearted…[A] smart, darkly comic story, which is perfect for a summer weekend read…Gilman understands the great sweep of the twentieth century, from life in a tenement on Orchard Street, to Italian Communists, Joe McCarthy, McDonald’s franchises, suburbanization, and, of course, the history of ice cream in America. She blends it in a delicious swirl, and adds a topical spin.”
“Entertaining…Although this is Gilman’s fiction debut, she knows how to tell a sweeping story…Lillian Dunkle is sometimes sympathetic, sometimes reprehensible but always fascinating. And that, darlings, is all that matters in telling a good story.”
Dallas Morning News
“The writing is forceful, the travel is fun, and the characters are memorable, making this novel by award-winning writer Susan Jane Gilman pretty much the perfect summer read.”
Christian Science Monitor
“This page-turner of a book is a of a book is a tart alternative to the usual sweet summer refreshment…The author’s research is meticulous. Gilman’s Dickensian description of the Lower East Side of the early twentieth century conjures up the intensity of such classics as The Rise of David Levinsky or Call it Sleep…The historical references are seamlessly woven into the story and add an extra topping to an already delightful tale…Gilman’s talent is taking sentimental stock characters and turning them inside out.”
“Gilman puts a modern twist on the traditional saga of a woman’s rise to power and the tragedy and triumphs therein. Her heroine, a bit Martha Stewart and a tad Leona Helmsley, isn’t always likable, but readers won’t be able to stop themselves from being captivated by her gutsiness, courage, and wicked sense of humor…Easy to read, fast-paced, at times sad and at others uplifting, this is a highly enjoyable novel.”
RT Book Reviews (4½ stars)
“An outstanding fiction debut…Gilman’s numerous strengths are showcased, such as character-driven narrative, a ready sense of wit, and a rich historical canvas.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“At the heart of memoirist Gilman’s first novel is ice cream entrepreneur Lillian Dunkle, a fascinating character who, like American businesswoman Leona Helmsley, believes that ‘only the little people pay taxes’…With its vivid depictions of old New York City tenement life and its tale of the American ice cream business set against the backdrop of the major events of the twentieth century, this rags-to-riches saga will appeal greatly to readers of American historical novels.”
“An ambitious and lavish immigrant rags-to-riches-to-rags first novel rife with humor and moxie.”
“The captivating story of ice cream queen Lillian Dunkle is flawlessly delivered by the author. Her cadence and expressiveness are entertaining as she portrays the complex Dunkle, who is pathetic, sarcastic, ambitious, and bold. Gilman gives life to Dunkle’s immigrant story, which spans over seventy years. Many Yiddish terms and a few Italian ones are sprinkled throughout her impressive narration. As a poor immigrant becomes the ice cream queen, the story provides historical insights on the development and franchising of the ice cream industry. Listeners will be engaged by Gilman’s compelling story and presentation. Wnner of AudioFile Earphones Award.”
Susan Jane Gilman is the author of several books, including Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress and Kiss My Tiara. She has written commentary for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Ms. magazine, among others, and her fiction and essays have received several literary awards. Though she has lived most recently in Geneva, Switzerland, and Washington, DC, she remains, eternally, a child of New York.
- Publisher: Hachette Book Group
- Genre: Fiction/Literary
- ISBN-13: 9781619696525