Archive for February 5th, 2015

Pain and joy mingle in ‘The Lost Legends of New Jersey,’ Frederick Reiken’s excellent coming of age tale

February 5, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 5, 2015

Frederick Reiken’s wonderful 2000 novel, The Lost Legends of New Jersey, is the tale of a fractured Garden State family in the early 1980s.

Teenager Anthony Rubin and his parents, Michael and Jess Rubin, are three of the book’s main characters; the fourth is Juliette Dimiglio, the young neighbor who fascinates and frightens Anthony. The novel explores the quartet’s longing, loves and losses, which are often but not always romantic.

A younger Michael ardently pursues Jess, the product of an Orthodox Jewish couple who frown upon their daughter’s rebellious ways — she becomes a high school cheerleader and marries Michael, who hails from a less-observant Jewish family.

The marriage eventually fractures because Michael is inherently unable to deal with Jess’s unhappiness, mental illness and physical and emotional distancing. The doctor launches a reckless affair with Claudia Berkowitz, a family friend. Jess tolerates the infidelity for years until she can bear it no longer; one day, she drives over to the Berkowitzes and starts throwing rocks at their house.

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