Boogaloo on 2nd Avenue is a novel that focuses on pastry, guilt, and greed on Manhattan’s lower east side. It is non-fiction writer’s Mark Kurlanksy’s debut novel. The story takes place on the lower east side in New York, a place where diversity flourishes. It follows a number of characters of different ethnic backgrounds from the Reagan era but the main one being Nathan Seltzer, a jew who adores his young daughter and is torn on whether to sell his business to a corporation for her future. Social issues such as racism are present, highlighting the hatred between Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.
The story is choppy, broken up into parts that follow separate characters throughout the book, sometimes bringing in new characters over half way through the book to follow. It can be very confusing to follow and pretty easy to get lost. The beginning is slowwwwww and I know slow doesn’t have that many w’s but it was a drag. The first 75 pages or so consisted of introducing all these characters, introducing Jews, Latinos, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans trying to be Puerto Ricans, Italians, drug dealers, suspected Nazi’s, and it goes on. It has a jumble of different storylines that you can easily lose track of. After the majority of characters got introduced the story picked up a bit, and Kurlanksy’s writing style really came through. He has a quirky, nonchalant attitude in his writing that make it fun, not to mention the mouth watering descriptions of delicious pastry.
I feel like the character development suffered from the amount of semi-main characters in book. I think certain characters definitely plateaued in their development and I think it’s Kurlansky’s fault for taking on such a long list of characters. It also doesn’t help that some characters are way more interesting than others. Reading this book a chore at times, reading about a character that doesn’t really have a whole lot going on in their life isn’t that thrilling.
Overall I’d give this book a 6 out of 10. It’s quirky, colorful, and Kurlansky’s style is quite intriguing but the book lacks balance, lacks structure. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who lived on the lower east side in the late 80’s, I’d think it would hit close to home and be a really interesting read but other than that I won’t recommend it to anybody. The whole time reading this story I was waiting for a pop. It felt like I was blowing up a balloon and I was waiting for a plot twist, or a bombshell but every time I left disappointed with a deflated piece of latex.