Three decades of split-level woes in suburbia--on a parallel track to Horowitz' The Ladies of Levittown (p. 384), but...

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FIVE TOWNS

Three decades of split-level woes in suburbia--on a parallel track to Horowitz' The Ladies of Levittown (p. 384), but without that novel's humor and achingly tender recognitions. ""Deservers"" the Freundlichs were, thought the real estate agent who sold them a home in Long Island's Five Towns in 1950; survivors of the Depression and World War II, they could barely make a down payment. But within 30 years they will survive something harder than poverty--a traumatic rejection by their children of all they'd built in the ""gilded ghetto."" Arthur Freundlich--a dutiful son and reserved lover haunted by the memory of how older brother Edward (a gifted musician) ruined the family business while Arthur was overseas--becomes a remote father to daughters Amy and Marci. And his marriage to wife Evelyn cools as they earn and buy a posh, ""locked in"" Five Towns lifestyle. So though Amy will be the ideal daughter, gliding nicely through school and marrying a nice, materialistic (even in the Sixties) Jewish dentist, she'll eventually rebel: divorce, unwed pregnancy, and an idolization of dashing Uncle Edward (in London) before some big revelations lead her home, to marriage with a Five Towns rabbi. Marci's rebellion is more routine: turning on, heading for a commune. And other Five Towns kids are the stuff of bad-TV-movie melodrama: Amy's chum Joel, who runs with radicals and ultimately blows himself up; a Romeo-and-Juliet WASP/ Jewish couple (she dies, he marries miserably); and George, son of the Freundlich's black maid, who dies in Vietnam. Tonner has been over similar ground before in humorous nonfiction (Nothing But the Best), and her fiction debut was the often laugh-worthy Fortunoff's Child (p. 536); this, however, is a pat, flat tale, dogged and deadly serious, but unpersuasive and definitively overshadowed by Horowitz' treatment of precisely the same (if slightly less affluent) territory.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980