By Chet Yarbrough
By: Jennifer Egan
Narrated by Norbert Leo Butz, Heather Lind, Vincent Piazza
Jennifer Egan (American novelist)
“Manhattan Beach” is a mystery. Egan tells the fictional story of Anna, raised in an Irish family, among New York Italian mobsters during WWII. The story unfolds with revelations about its characters. “Manhattan Beach” reveals the contradictions of human life. It exposes the good and bad of every human life, whether male or female, law abiding, or criminal.
Manhattan Beach in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Anna grows to adulthood from a childhood interrupted by her father’s disappearance. She is 14 years old when he disappears. Her father left some money to the family, but without a word about where he went or what had happened. Egan adds to the mystery with Anna’s father’s meeting with an Italian mobster, two years before her father’s disappearance. Anna is at the meeting. She is 12 years old.
Anna’s father has an eidetic memory. That skill leads him to be hired by the mobster. The mobster uses Anna’s father’s detailed memory to keep tabs on employees and operations of a nation-wide gambling syndicate.
The mobster is the biggest financial contributor to the boss of the syndicate. Anna’s father’s eidetic memory helps the mobster, but it also creates a potential risk to the syndicate. It could be used to reveal the details of its criminal activity.
Later, Anna meets the mobster her father worked for, but she is now in her early twenties. She chooses not to reveal her real name. She thinks she might find some clue about what happened to her father. She and the mobster begin an affair. She reveals her real name, and the mystery begins to unfold.
A listener wonders is her father dead or alive? The mobster believes he is dead, but Egan reveals the father’s life as an officer in the merchant marines, after his disappearance. A listener now begins to understand what might have happened. One becomes interested in how the story ends. That is what makes Egan’s story interesting and worth completing.
This is not the greatest story ever told but it is entertaining. It illustrates how similar and equal men and women are–both in good, bad, and ethical qualities.