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The Crazyladies of Pearl Street [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Trevanian , Tom Bosely
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 7 2005
Legendary writer Trevanian brings readers his most personal novel yet: a funny, deeply felt, often touching autobiographical novel destined to become a classic American coming-of-age story.

The place is Albany, New York. The year is 1936. Six-year-old Jean-Luc LaPointe, his little sister, and their spirited but vulnerable young mother have been abandoned—again—by his father, a charmer and a con artist. With no money and no family willing to take them in, the LaPointes manage to create a fragile nest at 238 North Pearl Street. For the next eight years, through the Great Depression and Second World War, they live in the heart of the Irish slum, with its ward heelers, unemployment, and grinding poverty. As Jean-Luc discovers, it’s a neighborhood of “crazyladies”: Miss Cox, the feared and ridiculed teacher who ignites his imagination; Mrs. Kane, who runs a beauty parlor/fortune-telling salon in the back of her husband’s grocery store; Mrs. Meehan, the desperate, harried matriarch of a thuggish family across the street; lonely Mrs. McGivney, who spends every day tending to her catatonic husband, a veteran of the Great War; and Jean-Luc’s own unconventional, vivacious mother.

Jean-Luc is a voracious reader who never stops dreaming of a way out of the slum. He gradually takes on responsibility for the family’s survival with a mix of bravery and resentment while his mom turns from spells of illness and depression to eager planning for the day when “our ship will come in.” It’s a heartfelt and unforgettable look back at one child’s life in the 1930s and ’40s, a story that will be remembered long after the last page is turned.


Look for these Trevanian classics from Three Rivers Press: Shibumi, The Eiger Sanction, The Loo Sanction, The Summer of Katya, and The Main.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this nostalgic, richly textured autobiographical novel about growing up on a poor Irish block in Albany, N.Y., prolific author Trevanian (Shibumi; Hot Night in the City; etc.) recalls his childhood during the Great Depression through World War II. In 1936, six-year-old narrator Jean-Luc La Pointe, his mother and younger sister leave Lake George Village for a gritty tenement in Albany to reunite with their deadbeat father and husband. He never shows up, and the penniless family makes do on their own: Luke's mother finds work as a waitress, and he fetches day-old bread on credit from the Socialist Jewish grocer across the street while steering clear of the Meehans from down the block, "a wild, drunken, dim-witted tribe... related in complex and unnatural ways." Affectionate portraits of the titular eccentric women punctuate Trevanian's sprawling tale: Luke observes the beleaguered and self-destructive Mrs. Meehan and meets the reclusive Mrs. McGivney, who perpetually relives a happier past while caring for a catatonic husband. Luke's "defiantly independent" mother, another "crazylady," marries the decent upstairs neighbor, but continues to idealize her con-man first husband. Though Trevanian's reminiscences make for a more atmospheric than carefully wrought novel, he sweetly evokes an innocent if hardscrabble lost age. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In 1936, in the Depression-era U.S., six-year-old Jean-Luc LaPointe; his three-year-old sister, Anne-Marie; and his mother, Ruby, are given a nugget of hope. The father and husband who abandoned them twice over has written claiming that after a stint in the slammer he's straightened out his life and wants them to come live with him. So Ruby packs up her children and heads to Albany, New York, to the shoddy, rundown apartment that's waiting for them on Pearl Street. Jean-Luc's father, however, is nowhere to be found, and Ruby is forced to go on welfare to support herself and her children. At school, Jean-Luc comes under the tutelage of a kindly teacher, who nurtures his potential and encourages him. It isn't long before the growing threat in Germany and the approach of World War II cast a shadow on Pearl Street, especially when Ben, the man with whom Ruby has found love, enlists in the army after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Trevanian's gift is his eye for detail; readers looking to get a feel for the period will find much to enjoy here. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Challenges of Breaking Out March 30 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Trevanian (author of Shibumi) tells a very charming and fast-pace novel about a young boy growing up in the Irish slums of the Bronx during the 1930s and 40s. While Jean-Luc's tale is not unusual in terms of describing the basics challenges facing an immigrant family such as poverty, injustice, inhumanity, and discrimination, it does offer something very special for the reader to consider: a way by which to extricate oneself from the depths of such an existence: a creative imagination. Throughout the story, we see Jean-Luc valiantly attempting to help his abandoned sick mother and young sister every which way to leave the demoralizing climes of Pearl Street as it attempts to bring people down to the lowest level possible. He and the other Lapointes live close to an environment that perpetually smells of boil cabbage, urine, vermin and unwashed bodies. The Pearl Street community of fatherless families becomes the metaphor in the story for either the way to maddening despair or the reasons to have inspiring dreams. Jean-Luc, by assuming the role is no-good father deserted, becomes the dreamer by which his immediate family can climb out of this human sewer of broken lives. The story is full of how these dreams and visions of a better life work out in Jean-Luc's fitful existence. He is forever fighting the label of poverty in his efforts to get people to take his aspirations seriously. Every adult in his life, within the purview of Pearl Street, either fires his imagination to become somebody important or steels his resolve not to be dragged down further. In the end, we find a Jean-Luc who has moved out of Pearl Street to big-wide world beyond, forever looking for his fortune in the lives of others, and only finally finding it when he accepts who he is. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic Coming of Age Story Dec 26 2007
By Teddy
Format:Audio CD
The novel opens with the young Jean-Luc, his mother and sister moving into a slum on Pearl Street in Albany. His father sent word to Jean-Luc's mother to meet him there but as usual, he doesn't show up. Once again the mother and her two small children have to fend for themselves.

This richly textured coming of age story, through the depression reads more like a memoir than fiction. I listened to the audio version and Tom Bosely did an excellent job narrating. I listened to this book while working out at the gym. I could hardly wait for each workout to listen to more.

I was truly sorry that this delightful book had to end. I have never read a book by Trevanian before, but I plan to read more now.
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3.0 out of 5 stars a quiet novel Jan. 11 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A bit boring after reading Shibumi; alright human interest but nothing much really happens.Easy to read.A quick read. 2 more words
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  39 reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fulfilling novel from Trevanian July 20 2005
By A reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When picking up the latest by Trevanian, a reader must bear in mind that Trevanian is a versatile author and that his latest may resemble nothing he has written before. Yet he is one of those rare authors who succeeds, no matter what genre he tries. If you read The Crazyladies of Pearl Street expecting a spy novel like Shibumi, you will be disappointed. If you are a curious reader, expecting to be stimulated and entertained, and to appreciate a good prose, then you will find what you are looking for here.

The Crazyladies of Pearl Street is an autobiographical book (sort of), which is narrated by the young Jean-Luke. The story beings with Jean-Luke, his mother and his sister Anne-Marie arriving at Pearl Street, basically a slum. His health-wise fragile, mood-wise fickle mother has received a mail from her husband asking them to join him in Albany. But we never meet the man. We learn that he is a conman, appearing for brief periods of time, enough to charm the mother and get her pregnant, then disappearing, never to be heard from again for many years. So begins the life of this small family on Pearl Street. It is actually the story of an impoverished family on welfare, hardly affording anything, feeding on what the government can spare them. But for a story of such destituteness, it is not a depressing one. Quite the contrary it is filled with nostalgia for a whole different time, when radio and going to the movies supplied the sole entertainment, when America learned to grow up with World War II, when even the soon to be criminal boys of ghetto did not swear. It is a real story that takes you to the 30s and 40s America. Yet I think the trick here isn't that those were the good old days, but that these are the childhood memories of our author. Like every other childhood memory, this one has a longing you can associate with, even though you have never listened to a radio show that did not include pop music in your life. I can only imagine that such childhood memoirs can be very boring as the subject of a novel, but this one's written by Trevanian and not even for one sentence does it lag. From the first page to the last, it is captivating. I love it when a novel can transport me to a time and place I have never been, and does it so successfully that I do not feel like a stranger for one minute, and Crazyladies of Pearl Street does just that.

For Trevanian fans, this novel is double fulfilling because it gives you an insight into the mind of this mysterious author. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his takes on radio versus television, IQ tests, religion, contemporary American politics... Some of which are in his cybernotes, not in the novel.

Highly recommended to Trevanian fans and non-fans alike.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful american novel Jan. 5 2006
By Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
this is sort of more a collection of short stories than a proper novel. there isn't much of a formal plot, issue development, and resolution type of thing going on.

what you have is maybe a couple hundred well-rendered vignettes, set in 1930's Albany NY amidst the hardships of the Depression Era,some of which are made quite moving by the realization of how deeply he loved life, and other people. It's a very compassionate novel, in my opinion.

trevanian had the rare (and sought-after) gift of being able to quickly put an idea, that most of us are still forming in the unconscious, into a sentence of a few carefully-chosen words.
every few dozen pages you might exclaim "that's exactly what i was thinking" or "yes, that's very true" or "that's very well-said."

I say "had" because unfortunately Trevanian (pen name of Dr. Rodney William Whitaker)passed away recently, Dec 14 of 2005).
This is his last novel.

i find him, in crazyladies of pearl street, to be reminiscing a childhood in amazingly minute detail. that's what this is. don't expect some complicated novel that resolves some gigantic issue, this is just a fragmented (how do you remember your own early childhood if not in separate snapshots?) series of stories: well-crafted, tender, compassionate, quite human, very American, uniquely Trevanian.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite language and depictive strength July 20 2005
By Vasileios Masselos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What I love about Trevanian is that it's impossible to label him an any way. Like John le Carre he evolves, he matures and his language and prose reach the level of a true master. Trevanian understands the Japanese concept of "the way" (the "do" of ju"do", ken"do", aiki"do" etc) and constantly improves his superb writing skills. If he were is Japan I am sure he'd be named a living national treasure by now. The Crazyladies of Pearl street is evidently autobiographical and written by a man whose age blurs recent events but sheds new light and sharpens what happened more than seventy years ago. If someone is looking for a story, suspense or drama (as in the Sanctions, the Incident at 20 mile, Shibumi) would be (wrongly) disappointed because Crazyladies is more of a painting than a book. A painting so vivid and so artfully done that the reader is transported seventy years ago and lives every moment. It is also a strong distillate of knowledge and wisdom by one of the most formidable authors alive today. Contrary to e.g. Shibumi, Crazyladies is not a book written for the average reader. However, it would be an immense source or pleasure for its intended audiance. Let us hope that we'll get some more from Trevanian.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic March 29 2007
By Richard Baratta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I must admit that this story brought back my childhood in the South Bronx. The accuracy of life during the depression could only have been described from personal experience, and I wanted to write to Trevanian to tell him how much I enjoyed his autobiography, for it could not have been anything else. Later I learned that this was so, but that he had died in 2006.

I have purchased several copies and sent them to family and friends who also experienced the 1930s when they and their families struggled to simply put food, any food, on the table; and children worked at any menial job that paid a few cents to assist.

When Travanian talked of shining shoes, delivering newspapers, carrying parcels, hiding and reading in the public library, all was familiar to me and my brothers.

The book is also very readable and enjoyable... as most of his are.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rough Childhood in the 30s March 22 2007
By Virginia Allain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although this is listed as fiction, the details of Jean-Luc Lapointe's rough childhood in an Irish slum in Albany ring too true to be imaginary. The boy's escape came through hours of solitary story games where he plotted and acted all the characters. The responsibilities of helping his often-ill mother and vulnerable little sister weighed heavily on him during the depression years and the outbreak of WWII.

A nitty gritty bio that draws you in the way Angela's Ashes does. I became mesmerized by the flow of words and the pictures he evoked.

I've not read Trevanian's highly touted novels (Shibumi, The Eiger Sanction, etc.), but think I should give them a try after seeing his wonderful effort here.
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