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The Lost Legends of New Jersey by Frederick Reiken

About the book:
From the critically acclaimed author of The Odd Sea, a poignant and
magical coming-of-age story that deftly explores the mysteries of love
and loss (Time).
Its the early 1980s and the suburban streets of New Jersey are filled with
Bruce Springsteen-era teenagers searching for answers. Anthony Rubin is
a rising high school hockey star faced with a family that is falling apart.
His father has had an affair with Anthonys best friends mother and his
own mother has abandoned the family for Florida. Confronted with an
overwhelming sense of loss, Anthony focuses on the one thing he feels he
can save-the tough-talking daughter of a reputed Mafioso, a Juliet to his
Romeo. Merging the commonplace and the mythological, Frederick
Reikens richly layered second novel presents unforgettable characters
whose lives seem at once familiar and archetypal. Filled with joy as well as heartbreak, The Lost
Legends of New Jersey is a rich, resonant tale of the extraordinary magic that can arise within
ordinary lives.
About the author:
Frederick Reiken holds a B.A. from Princeton and an M.F.A. from the University of California,
Irvine. His first novel, The Odd Sea, was chosen by Booklist as one of the 20 Best First Novels
of the Year and won the Hackney Literary Award. He lives in Boston and teaches graduate
writing classes at Emerson College.
Discussion Questions:
Q. What is the significance of the title? Can the chapters be considered legends? In what way,
for instance, is the chapter entitled Constellations a legend? What about Lost Meadows?
Romeo and Juliette? Bshert? Juliette Wakes Anthony at Dawn?
Q. What are some of the specific geographical details that Reiken incorporates into the book?
What particular locales emerge most distinctly? What else helps to establish a sense of place?
How are the characters connected to the geography and culture of northern New Jersey circa
Q. Both Michael and Jess Rubin might be said to be flawed characters, yet they are presented in
a sympathetic light. How does Reikens characterization process strike this balance? What is the
effect of the books use of multiple character perspectives or changing point-of-view?
Q. Is Vincent Dimiglio really a mobster? Is there any evidence that Isabella Dimiglio ever was a
prostitute? How does the book present the idea of mythmaking in regard to these and other
Q. In the chapters Anthony Sells Juliette a Raffle and Wolves, Juliette contemplates her
feelings toward her mother. What are they? What about her father? Aunt Camille? Why do you
think she continues to date Tommy Lange?
Q. In Lost Mothers, Anthony wonders whether finding his mother dead and bloody, as
Juliette has, might be easier than having a mother who is still alive but absent in his life. How
does Anthonys predicament compare with Juliettes? How do their responses to having a lost
mother compare or contrast?
Q. Is there any way to account for Jesss erratic behavior and obvious problems with
relationships? Does she have an identifiable mental health disorder? In A Brief History of
Sadness, why does she begin and end an affair with her scuba diving instructor?
Q. What is Joeyland? Is it a place specific only to Claudia? Why does Claudia decide to leave
Joey Malinowski? How do her actions toward Joey compare to Leah Kleinfelds actions toward
her own high-school sweetheart, Paul Haney?
Q. What does the inclusion of Leah Kleinfeld and Max Rubin, two secondary characters,
accomplish for the novel? How do their respective stories treat the notion of love? How do their
understandings of love compare to those of Jess and Michael?
Q. In Yiddish the word bshert literally means meant to be and is often used idiomatically to
refer to ones destined romantic partner. How does the chapter Bshert play on this idea of the
possibility of a destined true love?
Q. The novel depicts characters from three generations. How does each characters age influence
his or her opinion on marriage and the appropriateness of a particular mate? Do you consider
Maxs views to be atypical of his generation?
Q. The novel makes allusions to the legendary doomed romance of Guinevere and Lancelot in
the chapters Angels Like Audrey Hepburn and Juliette Wakes Anthony at Dawn. How does
this reference pertain to Anthony and Juliette? What about Jess and Eddie Fischer? Are there
allusions to the Arthurian legend in other chapters?
Q. Is there a logic to the sequence in which the chapters narrated in first person are arranged
within the more prevalent third-person chapters? What is the effect of the first-person chapters
on the overall shape and structure of the book?
Q. Are there any distinct moments when something shifts or transforms during Anthonys visit
with his mother in Florida? In Sanibel, why does he focus on her gold jacket? What is the
significance of the tunnel they swim through in Atlantis?
Q. In the last chapter, Anthony notes that One of the problems with all stories is they have
borders. What does he mean by this? Which particular story lines feel like they continue beyond
the borders of The Lost Legends of New Jersey? How does the book achieve its sense of