The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street Book Review

Life is often a role of the dice. We don’t know where the dice will land, but we often follow the path anyway.

In the 2014 novel, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, by Susan Jane Gilman, Malka Treynovsky, arrives in New York City in 1913. A young girl of Jewish descent, Malka and her family have escaped the harsh life they lived in Russia. Their plans were originally to go elsewhere, but Malka tricks her family to emigrate to New York.

Soon after they arrive in America, Malka is not only permanently disabled from an accident, but she is also abandoned by her family. Taken in by the Dinellos, another immigrant family of Italian Catholic descent, she grows up to become Lillian Dunkle, “The Ice Cream Queen”. The book starts just as Malka and her family are about to leave Europe and ends decades later when Lillian is about to lose everything she has worked her whole life for.

What I liked about this book is that Malka/Lillian is a fully formed character, warts and all. Even nowadays, it is hard to find a character as human as Malka/Lillian is. The problem is that while the book is engaging, I was not completely caught up in it.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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