The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel

by Susan Jane Gilman

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"A rich literary feast of 31 flavors (and twice that many colors, scents and sounds), Ice Cream Queen is a familiar schmatta-to-silk brocade story of immigrant New upside-down, funhouse treat. You'll lick it up." - USA Today

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 when Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by an 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.

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 will be at stake.

*Includes reading group guide*

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455595051
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 05/31/2016
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 820,321
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Susan Jane Gilman is the author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress and Kiss My Tiara. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and has written commentary for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Ms. magazine, among others. Her fiction and essays have received several literary awards. Though she lives in Geneva, Switzerland, she remains, eternally, a child of New York.

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The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  The book is an interesting tale of a woman's long life: the past and present woven together in ways that don't rely upon chronological order.  The woman's childhood and early adulthood are truly fascinating.  Those portions of the book are  wonderful. The author has created a character that is impossible to forget and one that the reader wants to succeed at all costs.  As the story moves forward in time, and the protagonist ages, however, she becomes far less likeable. There was a woman named Leona Helmsley, who was widely derided as the "Queen of Mean" back in the 1990s, and our protagonist really reminded me of her.  Leona Helmsley left the bulk of her vast estate to her pet, and she did jail time, as our protagonist fears (jail) and plans (leaving money for her pet.) The history and background info of immigration, New York, ice cream, food competition and women's roles were all impeccable and immersing, with a "you are there" feeling.  The author says she wanted to write a book with a difficult and unlikeable protagonist.  That's a difficult choice for the reader and ultimately that made the book harder to read.  It's like spending time at a party with a mean and angry elderly woman;  eventually you want to get up and leave no matter how enthralling her story is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked reading about early NYC life but so much of it seemed long and too drawn out. Would have benefitted from better editing to move the story along.
sandi_l More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed the 1st half of the book but the 2nd half seems to be a variation of Leona Helmsley's life. Lost a lot of interest with that.
betsyjulia More than 1 year ago
This book is magnificent. Susan Jane Gilman is a master story weaver with perfect pitch—for dialogue, narrative, curlicued paradoxical human responses, and everything that contributes to a literary symphony.  The time structure of this book is inspired—weaving from both the past, forward and the future, back to finally sync up in a central present. The story of the evolution of Russian Jewish immigrant child Malka Treynovsky into a Jewish Italian American Marie Antoinette/Leona Helmsley/Martha Stewart/Joan Rivers ice cream diva named Lillian Dunkle is both an only-in-the-USA story and a transcendently human tour-de-force of hurt, humiliation, resentment, delicious revenge, regret, and resilience. The historical research alone deserves a standing ovation! Brava and thank you, Susan Jane Gilman.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
A special thank you to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET, a rags- to- riches historical fiction, of a Jewish immigrant, Malka Treynovsky, a determined six-year old girl from a poor childhood, set in 1913----flees Russia with her family, searching for the all American dream. What a ride! An exciting journey and fate of one driven, complicated, determined, yet colorful and troubled protagonist ----- encountering misfortune on her way to the dream she yearns for, and then some. . . A heartwarming novel full of crazy, yet engaging humorous characters with a mixture of romance, history, and suspense. Within three months of arriving in New York, her Papa abandons her, and her mother blames her for their misfortune-- Malka gets trampled by a horse, leaving her crippled. Abandoned by her parents, fate steps in---the man steering the horse takes pity on Malka, welcoming her into his home and world, where she becomes part of the family. This poor, unattractive, smart, yet sarcastic and crippling Malka soaks up everything from Catholicism, and embraces the family business, while at the same time excels at school, and her life begins to change drastically for the better. Fueled by her grief and abandonment, she begins to redefine herself as Lillian, The Ice Cream Queen of America. (Lillian Dunkle) Lillian, driven and savvy, creates quite an empire with determination and tenacity, taking Dunkle’s ice cream from a broken down truck to a household name, with her own TV show. But beneath the strong exterior, Lillian is still the crippled outcast of Malka-- abandoned, and bitter—can she believe in herself? She does whatever she needs to do to survive (seriously), and assure that her company remains on top. Playing the caring, motherly Ice Cream Queen in the public while scheming, lying and drinking too much in private can only last so long, as the two worlds collide, forcing Lillian to take a good hard look at her life or risk losing it all. A well-researched book, inspired by real life events—with a compelling protagonist, as Susan Jane Gilman, notes---the invention of soft-serve, credited to Tom Carvel (American-immigrant rags-to-riches saga), who began selling melted ice cream after a tire on his truck went flat. As the ice cream industry was directly affected by the greatest events of the twentieth century and American history, parallels as Lillian’s own life is shaped and her motivations for some of the things which led her down certain paths. (loved the ice cream flavors, interesting facts, and research about the entire industry). Susan Jane Gilman created Lillian, likable (not always), and one which readers will feel empathy—(I was totally rooting for her)! As the author referenced, THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD is a love letter to New York City and to the American dream ,and for all those who have worked so hard to attain their place in society. A mixture of past and present, a realistic story of hard work, scheming, the good/bad, and determination of one girl/woman’s life spanning over seventy years----expanding upon the way women are often portrayed in our culture with disabilities—pushing the boundaries (reiterating, “well behaved women rarely make history)”. Highly Recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
About 200 pages too long. Parts were great but too many long boring parts.
Books4Tomorrow More than 1 year ago
Spanning 70 years of the life of Malka Treynovsky, aka Lillian Dunkle, The Icecream Queen of Orchard Street is an interesting, often hilarious and sometimes touching read. Dreaming of stardom and riches, Malka travels to America in 1913. Little does she realize what obtaining her goals and emerging as The Ice Cream Queen, Lillian Dunkle, would cost her. An absolutely brilliant character study, this book, once started, can simply not be put down. The main character truly tested my feelings towards her. From feeling sorry for the poor, often misunderstood child, Malka, to honestly disliking the end product, Lillian, with her ruthless conniving, this story made an impression on me. Throughout Lillian's growth, transformation into a business woman and the ultimate disintegration of her moral standards; humor, fortunately, is always just below the surface.  Lillian Dunkle is such a well crafted character that I found myself rooting for her even while she was doing something devious, silly, or simply wrong. On a profound level I could understand the motivation rooted in her difficult childhood that drove Lillian to be a hard, tough business woman. Descriptions of early twentieth century life in New York City make the story come alive. The magic of this book, however, remains in the witty, sometimes poignant narration by the main character. Despite its length, The Icecream Queen of Orchard Street is a worthwhile, stimulating, often funny and deeply moving read. (Ellen Fritz)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TaraYoffe More than 1 year ago
 I am utterly enchanted by Susan Jane Gilman’s novel. This is an immigrant story the likes of which I had never read before. Even the living conditions in Manhattan’s Lower East Side are described better than in many novels I’ve read, filled with the foul smells and ceaseless din of life, with despair and hopelessness. The events in little Malka’s life, the repeated losses and abandonment, the utter poverty and searing loneliness—topped by becoming crippled—would have broken any child. Instead, the story of her struggles, of her resourcefulness and wits is inspiring. Rich details fill every page, and the language is fluid. The pace of this novel that spans over a lifetime moves well. The character of her husband, Albert/ Bert, an Adonis-looking yet illiterate, is beautifully drawn and therefore the relationship between the homely, disabled Malka (renamed Lillian,) is believable. We cheer the young couple as they fight to survive in an inhospitable world. I do not believe that the author meant for us to love the old woman Lillian has become. She is irascible, demanding, impatient, insulting. Through betrayals, biased against her disability, her inferior status as a woman who built a business that is always viewed as her husband’s—we see her developing into a shrewd business person. But she becomes obsessed with success and with keeping her eye on the competition so she cannot even enjoy the company of her husband who still adores her. When we meet her as an old woman, she acts as if rules of society no longer apply to her. She is an unlikeable character, but again, the author made her authentic. And we never forget for a moment what she had to overcome to get to this place…. I recommend this book to book groups as there is much to be discussed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
nytodallas More than 1 year ago
What a fun book. Enjoyed every bit of it. I found the main character to be a blast. I read this book quickly because I always wanted to know what was going to happen. It was well written and made me laugh a lot. This is the 2nd book by this Author that I read and I think this was better than Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress. It was a very enjoyable book.
NahvilleReader More than 1 year ago
I wish I could have 1/2 my money back. Not sure why this book got so many good reviews. I don't think it was worth more than 3 stars. The beginning of the book and he early years of the story were interesting and fun to read. The voice of the main character telling the story was annoying. If I read "darlings" one more time I may have thrown the book across the room. I did not find this novel "heartwarming" in any way shape or form. It was somewhat historical and full of misfortune.
Peanut61 More than 1 year ago
The book is very well written - characters & settings come alive and the story itself is extremely well crafted and has many surprises throughout.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My crush is a secret. Shhhhh
Anonymous More than 1 year ago