Blooming All Over
Although Blooming All Over has its romantic moments, it’s not a romance novel. Instead it’s a contemporary novel about the lives and loves of a big Jewish New York family who own an upscale delicatessen/grocery story. I thought Bloom’s Delicatessen and the New York ambience was the most vivid thing in the book But I was not too fond of the parochial attitude toward non-New Yorkers, and some of the characters were so immature.
This is a continuation of Love In Bloom’s, which I have not read, but I wasn’t a bit lost. Julia Bloom, who is the head of the business, is planning her marriage to Ron Joffe. He loves her, she loves him – so it’s a simple thing, right? Not when you’re a member of the Bloom family. The Blooms are tightly-knit and they love each other, but they squabble, fight and generally kvetch about the tiniest little detail.
While Julia Bloom tries to run the business and plan her wedding, sister Susie is in love with Casey Gordon, Bloom’s genius bagel baker. Casey wants to marry her and settle down, and that terrifies Susie. Meanwhile, their brother Adam has graduated from Cornell and plans on going to Purdue for a doctorate. He has had an intense relationship with an intense woman named Tash, who lives to protest. In their case, absence does not make the heart grow fonder, especially when Adam meets a ballerina. Also, the Blooms’ mom, Sondra, begins to date Ron’s father; cousin Rick is off trying to make an infomercial about Bloom’s that will be good enough to enter in the Sundance Film Festival; and matriarch Ida observes and gives her comments about it all.
I just finished going to my brother’s wedding and the big, fighting, kvetching, but ultimately loving Bloom family reminds me a bit of my own. I’m a southern Catholic, but I felt pretty much at home among the Blooms. I also greatly enjoyed the atmosphere of this book; the descriptions of New York and the food from Bloom’s are so vivid, I could practically taste the latkes. There’s a lot of Yiddish in the book, but I have read and loved Leo Rosen’s wonderful book The Joys of Yiddish and had no problems there at all.
As for the characters, I liked some of them a lot, especially Ron and Julia. As for Susie, though, I wanted to shake her. It’s all well and good to run around and rebel and want your freedom, but Susie was getting old enough that she came across as neurotic, especially since Casey was such a genuinely nice guy. I guess it’s over my head, but Susie was really upset at the prospect of having to live in Queens. I know I’m just a hick from Kentucky, but enlighten me – what’s wrong with Queens?
Also, I bristled some at the sneers at Purdue and the Midwest. Purdue is a top-ranked university, and people who live in Indiana have not all fallen off the turnip truck. Heck, where I live, we have several Bosnian restaurants, an international food store, an Indian restaurant run by a man from Nepal, two stores that make authentic bagels, and one of our candidates for circuit judge is originally from Nigeria. Those of us not from New York can be quite cosmopolitan, thank you. So what if you can’t get Ethiopian cuisine at 3:00 a.m.? You can get White Castle hamburgers.
To sum up: I enjoyed this book’s New York atmosphere very much, and Arnold really knows how to write about family and food. But some of the characters got on my nerves a bit, and the insular way New Yorkers are depicted was a drawback for me as well. But if a fun, urban family novel with a bit of romance sounds interesting to you, you might consider Blooming All Over.