cover image The Crazyladies of Pearl Street

The Crazyladies of Pearl Street

Trevanian, . . Crown, $24.95 (367pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-8036-6

In this nostalgic, richly textured autobiographical novel about growing up on a poor Irish block in Albany, N.Y., prolific author Trevanian (Shibumi ; Hot Night in the City ; etc.) recalls his childhood during the Great Depression through World War II. In 1936, six-year-old narrator Jean-Luc La Pointe, his mother and younger sister leave Lake George Village for a gritty tenement in Albany to reunite with their deadbeat father and husband. He never shows up, and the penniless family makes do on their own: Luke's mother finds work as a waitress, and he fetches day-old bread on credit from the Socialist Jewish grocer across the street while steering clear of the Meehans from down the block, "a wild, drunken, dim-witted tribe... related in complex and unnatural ways." Affectionate portraits of the titular eccentric women punctuate Trevanian's sprawling tale: Luke observes the beleaguered and self-destructive Mrs. Meehan and meets the reclusive Mrs. McGivney, who perpetually relives a happier past while caring for a catatonic husband. Luke's "defiantly independent" mother, another "crazylady," marries the decent upstairs neighbor, but continues to idealize her con-man first husband. Though Trevanian's reminiscences make for a more atmospheric than carefully wrought novel, he sweetly evokes an innocent if hardscrabble lost age. (June)