book review: Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

P
ineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

Overview: The Stockton family has long called the fruit streets of Brooklyn home, and even as their children grew up and moved out, they stayed nearby. Pineapple Street looks at a period in the wealthy family's life from three distinct perspectives. We experience the events of the story through youngest daughter, Georgiana, who's in her early twenties and the baby of the family, Darley, the oldest of the daughters, and Sasha, the brother's new wife who sees all the happenings of the Stockton's lavish lifestyle as a bewildered outsider. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 While we only have 3 point of view characters, all of the Stocktons get rich portraits drawn over the course of the book. Having these three different vantage points is also what makes the story so fascinating. It seems intentional and is impactful that Jackson chose to tell the story through the points of view of the three younger women in the family, and they do exhibit the most growth as the book progresses. 

Sasha always feels like the outsider. She grew up middle class in Rhode Island and often feels like she came from a different planet entirely than the Stockton household where each kid inherited tens of millions of dollars when their grandparents died and high society is their second language. She's the grounding force that puts into perspective the outlandish issues the family creates. Sasha also quickly bonds with Darley's husband Malcom as the only other outsider who doesn't understand the strange intricacies of their life. Sasha runs up against many pain points as she strives to find allies within the family as Darley and Georgiana are convinced that she's just a gold digger. As Sasha starts her new life with her husband, Cord, including moving into the Stockton's family home on Pineapple Street, she'll have to figure out how to claim her own space is a family devoted to keeping things the same.

Darley is a few years older than Sasha and has two kids. Much of Darley's story centers around her struggles as a stay at home mom questioning her loss of identity and income potential. The question of inheritance is also centered in Darley's story as she's chosen to forgo access to her trust and pass it directly to her children so that her husband, Malcom, didn't have to sign a prenup. Because she became a stay at home mom after her second child, though, that leaves her in the tough position of not having an income of her own. While Darley has grown up in her parents' New York society world, she still doesn't have an effortless experience navigating the politics of private elementary school and what happens when a seemingly steady single income vanishes overnight. 

Finally, Georgiana is in her early twenties and has never known a world beyond her privileged bubble. She lives in an apartment she bought with a down payment from her trust, she works a low paying job at a nonprofit with no regard for what her salary even is, and she's generally pretty self absorbed, something Sasha is always keen to point out. Being the youngest, Georgiana also follows the greatest evolution over the course of the novel. She meets a few people who make her seriously question her life trajectory and belief systems, looking beyond her tennis ranking for the most important things in life for the first time. Over the course of the novel, Georgiana questions everything she's ever known about her family and the world. 

Plot: 5 The multiple perspectives keeps the book moving as we get increased tension from knowing sides of the story that the other point of view characters we read about are oblivious too, so there's plenty of foreshadowing and extra painful miss communication. The tension and pacing are incredible, especially considering how slow and tedious some literary fiction books dealing with similar themes have been. This book is certainly looking for the line right between literary and commercial and does a beautiful job finding it. I have to wonder if this is owing to the fact that the author is an executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. The book certainly has a sense of being aware of its readers need for drama and intrigue, and it's tightly plotted. Somehow, even in this wild family, there was only one point that felt like it pushed the details of the scene to a bit of an over the top place. 

Writing: 5 I couldn't put the book down from the very first page. The book hits the right notes of having a compelling plot and characters that you become quite invested in despite all of their flaws and lack of a connection to earth. At the end of the day, though, the book is truly about cutting through the noise to realize there are very few things that truly matter in the end, and family, even a dysfunctional one, is worth more than any divides that come between them from money, status, or perceptions.

more on Reading, Writing, and Me:

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book review: Maame

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book review: The Guest

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