Cover image for The lost legends of New Jersey
The lost legends of New Jersey
Reiken, Frederick.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt, [2000]

Physical Description:
312 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
580 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 8.1 21 Quiz: 24980 Guided reading level: NR.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Romeo and Juliet in northern New Jersey? Yiddish constellations in Asbury Park? A garbage dump in the Meadowlands that's filled with old musical instruments from a high school marching band? Love and sex, hockey and snorkeling, a family that is falling apart despite the best intentions-this is what Frederick Reiken has delivered in his brilliant second novel.But the real subject is true love, the one and only-known in Yiddish as b'shert. Anthony Rubin, the young protagonist, isn't sure whether he's found it with his neighbor, Juliette, daughter of a reputed Mafioso. His mother, who quits the family after her husband's affair with a neighbor, doesn't believe in true love at all. But his father does, and so does Anthony's grandpa, who meets the love of his life at 78. Reiken is known for creating characters you feel you've known all your life, for mapping landscapes with profound intimacy and wonder. The Lost Legends of New Jersey is a rich, resonant book, filled with joy as well as heartbreak, and the extraordinary magic that can arise within ordinary lives.

Author Notes

Frederick Reiken's first novel, The Odd Sea, won the Hackney Literary Award and was selected by Booklist and Library Journal as one of the best first novels of the year. A native of New Jersey, Reiken now lives in Massachusetts and teaches graduate writing classes at Emerson College

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Reiken's second novel merges the ordinary and the mythological in the suburbs of New Jersey. The young hero, Anthony Rubin, is surrounded by people looking for love. His father, unable to connect with his aloof, confused wife, has an affair with the mother of one of Anthony's close friends. His grandfather, who lives in a nursing home, is overjoyed to discover his true love at the age of 78. Anthony himself thinks Juliette Dimiglio, his tough, standoffish neighbor, might be the one for him, but she's dating a crass high-school football star. That doesn't stop Anthony and Juliette from being attracted to each other and eventually beginning to secretly date. But does their relationship, which is a mixture of the legendary, doomed romances of literature--Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere--have a chance to survive? Reiken's novel brilliantly presents new twists on the stories that have become literary myths--Morgan le Fay becomes a truck driver, Avalon a misty graveyard of dead instruments. Reiken seamlessly combines stark realism with fantasy in this exceptional tale of love and loss. Kristine Huntley

Publisher's Weekly Review

Elegiac and unsparingly direct, funny and poignant, this second novel by the author of the well-received The Odd Sea is a beautiful story about loss, hope and survival. Between the summer of 1979, when Anthony Rubin is 13, and the winter of 1983, when he is a hockey star in high school, he experiences the breakup of his parents' marriage, loses a close friend, falls in love several times and moves through adolescence with a mixture of yearning and rue. On the one hand, Anthony has grown up fast: his emotionally volatile mother, Jess, has a nervous breakdown because of his father's adultery and leaves the family home in Livingston, N.J., for Florida. Anthony has a sense that good things in his life are already a part of the past. He always sees the present moment at a distance, so he can capture and preserve it in memory. On the other hand, he is slow to mature; afraid of being rebuffed, he is shy with girls. Two astute and kind teenagers intuit his need for mothering. An "older woman"DAlex Brody, the senior manager of the hockey teamDseduces him so he can lose his virginity, and his next door neighbor, Juliette diMiglio becomes his friend and sex partner. While all the characters are drawn with warmth, Juliette will haunt the reader. Her mother commits suicide; her crude, abusive father is regularly beat up by loan sharks; Juliette herself submits to her boyfriend's sadistic behavior and earns a reputation as a slut. Juliette is trapped in the circumstances of her life; Anthony will rise above them. But it is his grandfather, who at 81 meets his b'shert (a Yiddish word that means your fated spiritual other half), who teaches Anthony that he must wait for love. There are some wonderful, almost dreamlike set pieces in this novel, as when Anthony and friends discover a graveyard for musical instruments in the Meadowlands. If Reiken has a fault, it is endowing his characters with feelings that they immediately interpret into emotional insights. At times the psychologizing seems manipulated; too often characters get a mystical feeling that "something had shifted" inside, lifting them to a new stage of understanding. But these are small cavils in a narrative in which separation and loss are palpable, yet faith in survival is conveyed with a sweet but unsentimental clarity. Reiken's message is in a passage from the kabbala: even in the deepest sadness, one can find "sublime joy." (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Coming of age in 1970s New Jersey, teenager Anthony Rubin channels his energy into his hockey team rather than dwell on his absent mother or the seemingly uncontrollable (though not unmourned) loss of his best friend and next-door neighbor, Jay. An extramarital affair between Jay's mother and Anthony's father has caused tension between the two families, and as Jay drifts away, Anthony's tightly strung mother is sent into a tailspin, flight, and a strained, long-distance motherhood. To this emotional turmoil, Reiken, whose debut novel, The Odd Sea, won the Hackney Literary Award, adds Anthony's crush on the tough-talking daughter of the touted neighborhood Mafioso. A guy never had a more harrowing sophomore year. The author fashions a hero in resilient Anthony, to whom the reader's heart goes out with the clear understanding that it will be in good hands. Recommended for popular fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/00.]DMargee Smith, Grace A. Dow Memorial Lib., Midland, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Part I Constellationsp. 11
Joeylandp. 29
In and Out of Moonlightp. 38
The Gift of Anticipationp. 48
Sanibelp. 61
Part II Lost Mothersp. 73
Anthony Sells Juliette a Rafflep. 84
Lost Meadowsp. 99
Goodnight Kissp. 112
The Invisible Worldp. 118
Romeo and Juliettep. 127
Atlantisp. 148
Part III Lovep. 159
Hockey Player Mythp. 171
A Brief History of Sadnessp. 192
Wolvesp. 211
Angels Like Audrey Hepburnp. 227
Part IV The Figure 5 in Goldp. 241
B'shertp. 253
Dinosaursp. 268
Juliette Wakes Anthony at Dawnp. 279
The Lost Legends of New Jerseyp. 302