A Long Island Story is an acute portrait of the uneasiness and claustrophobia of family life ... Gekoski is skilled at characterisation and he has great fun playing with his readers’ sympathies ... Unfortunately, A Long Island Story lacks the comic shading of [his first novel], Darke ... The book also lacks the vivifying spark of originality that made Darke something well out of the ordinary ... His second novel is impeccably sharp about people and engrossingly readable.
His follow-up, A Long Island Story, wants entrance to the 'Great American Novel' genre. It doesn’t quite make the cut, but is nevertheless an engrossing read ... It is a tale of the disaffected middle class (I was reminded of Richard Yates), and the narratives of what might have been. Most of all, it’s an authentic portrayal of a particularly captivating time and place.
The novel, less a political story than one of a family unraveling, is loosely a roman à clef ... Unfortunately, he has now chosen to tell it from the adults’ point of view, so we lose the richness and insight the young Gekoski must have experienced so intimately. I would have loved to read this book as a fictionalized memoir told from the boy’s perspective ... As it stands, the adults in the novel feel empty, distant, just gossiping shadows passing before the children’s eyes, talking about politics and divorce and affairs.
Gekoski never overdoes it, allowing the man to reveal himself and to develop a better self without too much authorial elucidation. The other main characters, though fully drawn... are more explained than shown, and more stereotypical of their era ... In his acknowledgments, Gekoski tells us that the novel originated in his attempts to write a memoir ... Gekoski has added fictional elements, but his seeming desire to pin down the era and document his characters’ social, economic and political positions has a somewhat calcifying effect on the story ... engaging.
Gekoski’s deceptively simple tale of a troubled marriage is elegantly crafted, and its deft portrait of 1950s constraints and values masterfully conjures a rich atmosphere reminiscent of Richard Yates and John Cheever.
Anyone who remembers the McCarthy era, the Red Scare, and its repercussions for everyday people will be unable to put this book down ... The way the author describes family relationships, his depictions of the traumas the relocation causes—not only to the adults but also to the children—his characterization of the loving grandparents who rise to the occasion demonstrate his ability create a family with all its blemishes and all its goodness.