Floating in the Neversink — A Novel-in-Stories
In the summer of 1955, nine-year-old Amanda Gerber tearfully leaves her best friend, Francine, and their adventurous life on her block in Brooklyn’s Flatbush. She joins her cantankerous family on the long, hot drive to her grandmother’s home in the Catskill Mountains among the city’s Jews who flock to countless hotels and bungalow colonies in the heyday of the Borscht Belt. In the idyllic mountains, Amanda becomes ensconced in the tumult of her extended family and their friends, often seeking solace in the woods with her beloved cousin Laura.
Through the following summers, interspersed with the heightened drama of her emotionally charged city life, Amanda faces severe tests to her survival mechanisms, including the pain of loss, abuse, and betrayal, while family secrets threaten to disrupt her life even further. A novel-in-stories, Floating in the Neversink is a testament to the power of survival, friendship, and love.
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FLOATING IN THE NEVERSINK made the Jewish Women's Archive Reader Recommended list of 2018-2019
Praise for Floating in the Neversink
Floating In The Neversink is a complex and tightly woven “novel in stories” told from the perspective of young Amanda (Mandy) Gerber. A pre-teen when the book opens in 1955, it follows Mandy through her adolescence and high school years, recounting her summers with her extended family in the Catskills and the other seasons back in Brooklyn. Simon’s remarkably detailed descriptions of these settings are an immersive treat for her readers, being gritty enough to overcome any over-enthusiastic nostalgia. And as the book includes subject matter related to the sexual assault of children, mental illness, racism, and suicide, readers should be prepared with trigger warnings.
Yet even as Simon’s writing exposes the sharper edges of the Catskills for Mandy and her family, it also celebrates the best of these memories. Her deep relationships with her grandmothers and seeing how Mandy, and her sister and cousins are shaped by their shared experiences, is a joyful tribute to family that shines out from the underlying dark conflicts. Over the course of the stories, Simon deftly unfolds the nuances of her characters, all of whom are humanly imperfect, yet all of whom remain somewhat shadowy around the edges. This is the essential challenge of the book as a collection of short stories. It succeeds because of the strong continuity and its detailed character development. It succeeds when understood as a series of memories, but readers will be left without the whole of Mandy’s story.
Will readers be satisfied with this sense of incompleteness? Floating In The Neversink demands that its protagonist accept that there are things that can’t or won’t be discussed. That there are secrets and things that are unknowable in every family. And Simon doesn’t give her readers any more insight than she allows to Mandy. The result, is a thought-provoking and beautifully written book that will challenge how its readers think about how an individual weaves the tapestry of her family’s collective memory. —Rabbi Deborah Miller, Books and Blintzes
“Her keen observations are those of a Jewish teen coming of age, dating anniversaries to the dates of getting braces, remembering the outfits of the Catholic-school girls in her Brooklyn neighborhood and relishing outdoor, secret adventures in the Catskill woods as well as 'tutti-fruiti' ice cream. This novel too has its dark edges, as Simon explores complexities of friendship and family.” —Sandee Brawarsky, The New York Jewish Week
“The interconnected stories of Floating in the Neversink at first glance seem to portray the innocence of an idyllic past, but soon frays at the edges with its deep secrets, Amanda's unreciprocated love for her father and desire for his approval, even the darkness of sexual violation. In this novel, Andrea Simon captures the loveliness and loneliness of Amanda’s youth, and how she comes to terms with the contradictions of her childhood.” —Michelle Cameron, author of The Fruit of Her Hands and Beyond the Ghetto Gates
“The narrator of this humorous and poignant collection of linked short stories is Amanda Gerber, a lively and inquisitive Jewish girl, growing up in the 1950s. Mandy divides her time between a predominantly Catholic neighborhood in Brooklyn, and a Jewish summer community in New York’s Catskill Mountains where she’s surrounded by her large, multi-generational family…. In her beautiful, descriptive prose, Andrea Simon captures not only the experiences of a childhood but paints a portrait of an entire culture. Here is a broad human seriocomedy flavored with cheese blintzes and vanilla egg creams.”—Katherine Kirkpatrick, author of The Snow Baby and Mysterious Bones
“I laughed and cried at these vivid stories of a girl’s Catskills summers and Brooklyn school days as she ages from 9 to 15, from 1955-1961. Adventurous, dauntless Mandy, with her shyer cousin at her side, navigates the inexplicable world of her family with canny observations and a sense of survival. The adults are mired in fading jobs, their real gifts lost in the grind of living and their unspoken secrets: uncles died young, a neighbor’s perversity, job loss, infidelity, near drowning, and mental instability. Through all of this, curious Mandy shapes her own world in the woods, in grandmothers’ card games, and shut-away rooms. Floating in the Neversink is a joy to read.”—Stephanie Cowell, author Claude and Camille and Marrying Mozart. American Book Award winner.
“An engrossing, vivid coming-of-age novel.” — BookBub, New Releases
Question and Answer with Deborah Kalb
“Floating in the Neversink” by Andrea Simon is an emotional, dramatic, captivating and coming of age story…. I appreciate that the author discusses such problems as mental illness, emotional and physical abuse, loyalty and betrayals, the importance of family, love, and hope. I would recommend this novel for readers who enjoy thought-provoking novels.” — Linda Zagon, Linda’s Book Obsession