Review: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

18656072The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street
By: Susan Jane Gilman
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Genre: Fiction

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In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, “The Ice Cream Queen” — doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Lillian’s rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.


1thoughtsBefore Lillian was the Ice Cream Queen, she was a Russian immigrant named Malka. A little girl who had been dealt one crappy card in life. Not only does her father abandon them when they get to America, but her mother blames her for their misfortune in America. So when Malka gets trampled by a horse, leaving her crippled, her mother turns her back on her and washes her hands on Malka. Luckily for Malka, the man who was steering the horse takes pity on Malka and welcomes her into his house where she becomes part of the family. The family runs a frozen ice business but soon take on the task of gelato, which is where Lillian is born.

“I had entered the church Malka Treynovsky Bialystoker. I emerged, however, Lillian Maria Dinello.
The Legend of my American life had begun.”

This was an interesting tale of a young immigrant who becomes a huge ice cream mogul. She overcame everything in her life and became successful in the one thing she set out to do, make ice cream. There were a lot of bumps in her life but in the end, that’s what shaped her into the woman that she is today.

I liked that the story was mixed between past and present time. In the present time, Lillian is in court for tax evasion and a few other things. So she recollects her life leading up to that moment. The fact that the story would go back and forward in time helped break up the story. There would be times when I’d start to get bored with the storyline and then all of a sudden we’d go back in time and there would be a change of pace. Even so, I did feel like the story was a tad bit too long. If it wasn’t for those time jumps, I’d probably have put the book down. It just seemed like there were parts that would drag on for a while.

This was a good story that could easily be true. There were no crazy plot twists or embellishments that made you think that this was all make believe. The fact that when I finished the story, I sat back and thought, “Huh. So this really wasn’t based on a true story?”, really earned the author points.


1favequote“WPIX was only a local station, for God’s sake. And we aired at 7:00 A.M. on a Sunday-a Sunday! And maybe I had had a few drinks. But darlings, you try hosting a kiddie show for thirteen goddamn years.”


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