Kotlowitz frames this grave and moving novel about a youthful rite of passage in one fortnight at an Atlantic City Jewish family hotel during the year 1939. Teddy Lewin, fifteen, arrives with his porcelain-cool mother Bea and little sister at this small oasis where everyone submits to boardwalk grandeurs and new realities of family and strangers. Among the bathing, drowsing, or ceremoniously dining guests, there's a beautiful ""failed"" woman lawyer, Charlotte, and her loud seaside suitor; Gustav Levi, the hotel ""eccentric"" who is wise enough for both gentleness and despair. Other adults are testing social currents, while Teddy's rowdy peers are hot for experiments under the boardwalk. Bea herself makes disturbing nightly excursions to ""have coffee"" before she leaves with Teddy's sister. Then the Lewin males arrive--a father, an older brother, and an uncouth peasant grandfather. The holiday air becomes sharper and thinner. Teddy suddenly realizes that Charlotte, like ""those who reserve themselves,"" will always be alone, and that his handsome father has always been manipulated by his family. There are also cousins threatened in Poland. Teddy wonders ""What happens to people? What will happen to me?"" An impressive, overcast book of people trapped by the innocence and frailty of life.