The relationship between Eli and his father came the most naturally to me. I’m not sure why. But I felt their deep connection, their respect for each other, their hopes and fears for each other.
Laurie Boris – 20 December 2021
The Back Flap
He’s a deli-man’s son. She’s a mobster’s daughter. One chance encounter changes both their lives.
Eli Abramowitz works in his parents’ deli in Williamsburg. Not a bad job during the Depression. His family is his whole world—almost. He spends every Sunday at the movies and hopes to hit it big as a Hollywood screenwriter. But how can he tell his parents that one day he’ll be leaving?
Across town, Evelyn Rosenstein’s father works for the mob—undoubtedly the reason they’re doing so well. Definitely the reason she’s not allowed any farther than their mailbox unescorted. Even though her parents have chosen a husband for her, a family tradition, she fantasizes about a life in service to the unfortunate. But for the moment, she dreams of escape, if only for a few hours.
Opportunity strikes, and she ends up at the deli. Evelyn and Eli meet only briefly, but their instant connection tempts an unlikely, forbidden romance. When a charity dinner has them again crossing paths, danger follows. But will it shadow them into their futures?
About the book
What is the book about?
Eli, the son in Abramowitz and Son Kosher Delicatessen in Brooklyn, dreams of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter. Evelyn, the daughter of a mobster and his mail-order bride, carries the weight of family traditions but longs for escape and a life where she can do some good in the world. But a chance meeting could make trouble for everyone, and could put both their lives in danger.
Boychik is a story about hope, love, and finding the courage to chase your dreams even when they run counter to family obligations.
When did you start writing the book?
I started in the spring of 2019, which seems like a lifetime ago. I actually began by writing the last chapter, which eventually got cut.
How long did it take you to write it?
It was interrupted first by a back injury and then the pandemic. But eventually I returned to it, because I needed the escape. This one took longer than any of my other books, I think due to the research involved. I think all in all it took two years.
Where did you get the idea from?
I was writing a contemporary story that had stalled, dead in the water. So I started doing some character work, and that drew me back to their ancestors. Immediately I saw a scene with a man and his father making pastrami in the basement of a delicatessen in the 1930s. I also felt the restless energy of a young woman who wants to escape from her criminal family. The story grew up around that.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
I struggled with Evelyn’s relationship with her parents. I was walking a fine line between how much she knew and how much she didn’t know about what they were doing. I also struggled mightily with Henry, a character who crops up later in the book. My beta readers suggested I either cut him out or totally change him. I thought about it for a long time, decided that he needed to be in the story, but in a different guise. It worked, or at least I think so.
What came easily?
The relationship between Eli and his father came the most naturally to me. I’m not sure why. But I felt their deep connection, their respect for each other, their hopes and fears for each other. The world of the book felt natural to me, too, as did the business in the deli, making the pastrami and pickles in the basement. Maybe because it felt like a connection to my ancestors.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
The characters are fictitious. However, I did borrow several anecdotes from my family history. My grandfather (who’d been a short-order cook in his youth) really did hang our wallpaper upside down, and his cousin shot an Irish boy and got sent to prison. My grandmother spoke Yiddish and once employed it to help a woman on a Brooklyn streetcar who had lost her money. I also borrowed many, many names of relatives.
Do you have a target reader for this book?
I think someone who likes coming-of-age fiction and exploring different points in American history. The Great Depression is a rich era for American culture and conflict, because people had no choice but to be resourceful. It fascinates me to learn what people did to survive, and how some people seem to get through it with little damage or perhaps even thrived from it.
How was writing this book different from what you’d experienced writing previous books?
I’d never written historical fiction before. It always felt too intimidating to me, doing all that research and getting the facts straight. But I felt compelled to do this one, perhaps to honor my family’s history. I really enjoyed digging into the worldbuilding, geeking out on how lox and pastrami was made, studying the streetcar maps of Brooklyn, and especially the movie culture.
What new things did you learn about writing, publishing, and/or yourself while writing and preparing this book for publication?
I learned that yes, I can write historical fiction. I also learned the benefits of outsourcing some of the work that in the past I’d done myself—it took away some of the stress and let me focus on other tasks. Also, I learned that I have a rich family history that I can draw from for other projects as well. And I am grateful to share that with the younger members of my family and with the world.
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