WHEN LIFE FALLS IT FALLS UPSIDE DOWN by Lou Myers

WHEN LIFE FALLS IT FALLS UPSIDE DOWN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

New Yorker cartoonist Myers juxtaposes the nursing-home deterioration of a woman almost 90 with an account of her growing up Jewish in the Bronx--in a first novel that's sometimes pedestrian, sometimes a fine evocation of an era tong since past. Ma, a lively presence at a farm in the Catskills, ""remembers everything at once."" When she begins to imagine gold bugs flying around the house, however, her son Lou takes her to a rest-home, and thereafter provides in diary form an account of her sojourn there. In the meantime, alternate sections narrate Ma's early life (as well as Lou's) in a Bronx neighborhood. Instances--humorous or redemptive--include the family's first record player; treks to the Starlight Amusement Park; glimpses of the Bronx Park full of unemployed ""droolies""; and Pa's drowning death in the local reservoir. Ma then takes in boarders, notably Thelma, a Marxist with communist friends (in this neighborhood, even the dentist is a socialist); Lou gets sexually initiated with Molly; and the prose turns lively as it describes his circle of pseudo-political friends--as well as a stint in moth-eaten wigs at the ""Free Theatre""; a freight-hopping trip to Laramie and a night in jail; and, finally, Ma's terror in the rest-home. The style is also occasionally surreal as Ma hallucinates: she believes, for instance, that she's forced to dance on one leg because she wet her bed, and near the end is haunted by an apocalyptic (and resonating) image--""The illegals keep getting in, more or them every day. And the crowd outside. . ."" An episodic novel that hits and misses a little too often--but as autobiographical fiction (and that's how it's billed), Myers' first offers a satisfying (and nostalgic) slice-of-life from a coherent immigrant past.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld