I quite enjoyed reading about Patricia Volk's offbeat family. She seemed to have more than her share of quirky characters at family functions! I like how she discovered so much about her ancestors, weaving the theme of food throughout. She is a fantastic storyteller who I am sure would be able to create a compelling story out of the most ordinary of circumstances. Great read!
Patricia Volk's enchanting memoir nails both 20th-century American life and the glorious eccentricities of her relatives with the gift for vivid detail of a fiction writer. (After all, she's published one novel and two short-story collections.) "Our hallway was the color of ballpark mustard. The living room was cocoa, my mother's wall-to-wall, iceberg green," she tells us. Volk begins with her adored immediate family: charismatic father, hypercritical but loving mother ("Mom made me, and now she will make me better"), and older sister Jo Ann, best friend and occasional mortal enemy. But they're only the beginning, just as the garment-district restaurant that rules her father's life is only one of the family achievements. Great-grandfather Sussman brought pastrami to the New World. Grandfather Jake, a demolition expert, was profiled in The New Yorker. "Everybody did one thing better than anybody else. Aunt Gertie sang the works of Victor Herbert. Aunt Ruthie mamboed. Granny Ethel braked with such finesse it was impossible to tell the moment the car went from moving to a stop." Of course, perennially negative Aunt Lil embroidered a pillow with the motto "I've Never Forgotten a Rotten Thing Anyone Has Done to Me"--but maybe she was embittered by the fact that Uncle Al slept with her for 11 years then refused to marry her because she wasn't a virgin. (She sent out wedding invitations anyway, and he fell in line.) All these great stories are arranged along a casual chronological arc ("from Sussman Volk in 1888 to Cecil Volk in 1988"), but nothing is ever really finished. Her father closes Morgen's in Manhattan; her sister's husband opens a trendy food shop in Florida. "We're still feeding people," Volk asserts. Readers will find her prose as delicious as family housekeeper Mattie's chocolate cake. Recipes included.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of Ms. Volk's fascinating family. An easy one-day read, with both hilarious and heart-wrenching moments. It is obvious that this book was written by Ms. Volk with great love and admiration for her relatives.
This memoir isn't all about being raised IN a restaurant as I had originally thought, but actually about the author's family. More than anything, you can see how she loved them and was able to show how each was unique and interesting in his or her own way.
The writing is also humorous. The reader learns what it was like to be part of a family who has been in the restaurant business for many generations. Each chapter is about a different family member. I really enjoyed it.
This was a fast delicious read. It was a such a joy to hear a down to earth story of a family legacy. I could connect to some of the relationships throughout the family, both the good and the bad. The love and the jealousies, the trials and triumphs, the hard work that pays off. It was both comical at times as well as, a real tear-jerker. It was written and told in a way that you just knew this woman lived this life. The emotions were true and heartfelt. It was just a real good book about one family living life.
An enjoyable book about a New York City family who happens to be in the restaurant business. If you expect great stories about the life of a family and their restaurant, you will be disappointed. This vignettes only mention the restaurants in side notes. As little short stories about separate family members of the author it was quite a good read.
Like some others that have posted here, I expected this book to focus more on cooking, food and the restaurant business, but I really wasn't disappointed. Volk brings to life a bygone New York and tells a wonderful immigrant tale, that of a great family dynasty as well. The next time I'm in Central Park I'm going to look for the bench she bought for her father--the one right next to Madeline Kahn's.