The ice man cometh, and it’s a good thing he does in “The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street,” a historical novel by Susan Jane Gilman. Without help from Mr. Dinello, an Italian in New York who peddles ices in the early 1900’s, a poor Russian girl wouldn’t have any place to go.
Malka Treynovsky arrives in America in 1913, after fleeing Russia with her family. She’s been raised in the school of hard knocks. The poor child has a mother straight from “Mommy Dearest,” an embittered woman who foregoes her claim to her daughter when Malka is run over by Dinello’s horse on the tenement streets.
“Bad enough she is one of four girls. Bad enough she is ugly. But now you’re telling me she also is a cripple? Tell me, please, Doctor. What I am I supposed to do with a daughter like this?..Keep her for all I care. She is useless.”
So begins my Weekend Read, an epic novel about a tough, determined immigrant girl who suffers more than her fair share of licks—but who grows to become the greatest ice cream maker in America. Her success, however, will come at a price.