Jill Eisenstadt’s fast-paced first novel chronicles the coming-of-age of four teenagers in Rockaway, or “Rotaway,” at the Atlantic edge of New York City. They drink a lot, do a little dope, and feel no more in charge of their lives at 18 than they did in Catholic grammar school. Only Alex will go away to college, the rest of her group will stay: Timmy, a dropout and a lifeguard, Alex’s ex-boy friend and still in love with her; “Chowderhead,” Peg and the cruel Sloane, lifeguards too, the horizons of their lives as narrow as the beaches of their summers are wide.
When Alex leaves for school, Timmy misses her with an utter and believable acuity; meanwhile, he and Chowderhead work at a deli, the movie theater burns down, and Peg takes a “hat walk:” a drink in every bar on the mile-long boardwalk. In Maine, Alex stumbles through her first semester. Combining innocence and experience, hope and hopelessness, Eisenstadt’s characters pulse with modernity.
FROM ROCKAWAY (Knopf 1987/Vintage Contemporaries 1988) was published to wide praise when Jill Eisenstadt was a 24-year-old Bennington College graduate. Her essays, articles, short fiction and poetry have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Vogue, Elle, Bomb, The Best of The New York Times “City Section” and Best American Sex Writing. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Michael Drinkard.