Excitement surged through me when I noticed the package sitting on my front porch. My fingers trembled when I took the book with the blue cover out of the manila envelope and held it in my hands. I was one of Richard’s beta readers, so I was delighted to receive an advanced copy of the finished book. I’m not good a good book reviewer, but I was so excited about this story. I decided to write about the finished project of the story I beta read. This review will show I wasn’t disappointed when I read Afternoon at Bergdorf’s.
Quick Synopsis of Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
All of the characters in this novel are New Yorkers. The author drew the personalities from the various lifestyles people in the city experience. One character is a mid-west transplant. Joe Tiller came from Indiana to seek fame and fortune in the Big Apple. Katheryn James York is a former starlit and famous singer with an upper-class lifestyle. She now has Dementia. Roman White is an African American young man from the Bronx. He struggled to put himself through nursing school, but he managed to become an RN. Roman works for Hampton Grove as one of Katheryn York’s caregivers. In her mind, she confuses him with her old manager, Marshal.
Throughout the day, pieces of Katheryn’s past unravel. Through her ramblings, she talks about a fellow musician she once loved named Marques. They had an illicit interracial affair. The couple hid the affair because of how it would be viewed by society. Roman isn’t certain if the stories Katheryn tells are true or simply figments of imagination created by her rattled mind. He fears arrest when she starts scraping paint off a bench in Central Park to uncover the secret buried there.
Joe Tiller has issues. His world is unraveling, and his career is a sham. He spends the day traveling on the New York subway system, searching for a gift for a potential client he’s trying to impress. Tiller is the perfect image of the New York hustle.
The destinies of these three individuals collide when they come together at Bergdorf’s on one fateful afternoon. A situation of mistaken identity leads Katheryn to slipup and think Joe Tiller is her grandson. Tiller is all too willing to take advantage of the situation. Roman and the Bergdorf’s staff are suspicious of Tiller, but they play along with his pretense to a certain point. None of them has ever met the grandson, and they don’t want to offend Katheryn.
Tiller’s deceit will result in tragic consequences for two of the main characters and provide answers to a mystery for one.
Highlights found in Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
Several scenes in the book captured my attention. I found the second chapter intriguing because the writer introduces us to Katheryn and Roman. You get the impression Katheryn treats Roman as the help. Roman finds Katheryn demanding, but at the same time, he has compassion for her and her mental state.
I loved the corndog and bench scenes in Central Park. Roman is worried they might be arrested for vandalism when Katheryn starts scraping the bench. Roman also experiences a vivid memory of his grandmother buying him a corndog to ease his pain when he got hurt as a child, which become important later in the story.
I found the scene where Joe Tiller has a disagreement on the subway with a woman carrying an IKEA bag very amusing. In fact, many of the encounters Joe has during his journey around the city gives the reader a great insight into his dastardly personality.
The last couple of chapters are also great highlights of the book. The reader will find several good plot twists there, which will give light to the story. The last sentence of the book brings the story to a perfect end. I would go into more detail, but I don’t want to give anything away.
Overall opinion of Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
This book told an excellent story. It was an exciting read for me even though I was one of the beta readers. I finished it in two settings because I found it difficult to put down. I know a book affects me when I carry the story and characters with me after closing the cover and going about my life. Afternoon at Bergdorf has had that effect on me.
There were a few spots where I wish I had more information. An example of this is I would have liked to know how long Roman worked for Katheryn in the second chapter, not toward the end. In a few places, there was some confusion. The author may have done this as a device to show Katheryn’s Dementia. I found the crassness of Joe Tiller’s character offensive, but it did paint him as the sort of jerk who would take advantage of an elderly woman.
The Story Development found in Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
The fast-paced movement of the story gives the impression of the New York City hustle. The reader witnesses Joe Tiller’s daylong travels on the subway. Katheryn and Roman make a trip to Central Park before journeying to Bergdorf’s. Readers find themselves caught up in the constant motion of the “city that never sleeps.” The plot holds your interest as you travel with the characters. The beginning chapter starts with Joe Tiller. It gives you a quick glimpse of his personality before you move on to Katheryn and Roman.
How the story of the life of this once famous singer unraveled one memory at a time is powerful. By the end of the story, the reader has a good idea of who this woman once was. Roman becomes significant as he taps into his memories with his grandmother and angst about waiting on this rich woman. The writer has a knack for climbing into the mind of each of his main characters in a way only a genuine therapist could accomplish. All this inner reflection of the characters could have bogged down the writing, but it didn’t.
The ending of the story was tragic but also satisfying. The reader wanted to see Joe Tiller get what is coming to him, and he did. Warning. The man’s inner language and his behavior are vulgar, crude, and offensive. Although he was written more than a little over the edge, I believe it was an honest representation of what a man like him thinks.
There was also a unique twist at the end, but I don’t want to give it away. You need to read the book if you want to find out about it. (I also believe the ending was more developed than the beta version I read.)
Worldbuilding in Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
The reader gets the feel of the hustle and grind of New York City from the very first page of the novel. Joe Tiller’s all-day subway ride is a classic example. A person who has been a resident of New York City for many years could only construct the worldbuilding around these characters.
The uptown lifestyle of Katheryn York, where even Hampton Grove is set up to give her the impression, she is living in a luxury apartment, shows a glimpse into how a wealthy New Yorker lives. The luxury of Bergdorf’s in comparison to the street vendors Joe Tiller encounter earlier in the day is a sharp contrast. Roman reactions to Katheryn as a working-class person further add to the contrast of lives in the story, which makes up New York City.
Evaluation of the characters in Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
At first, the reader can’t decide if Joe Tiller is a jerk or a typical New Yorker. The reader isn’t into the book long before knowing he is a sexist, homophobe with money problems. He has “ass hair growing like the Amazon rain forest”, and his secretary, “Gloria, Gloria,” is incompetent because she can’t work miracles. Tiller’s business is about to implode. He pictures himself as some sort of financial genius, but all he’s selling is a con.
At first glance, Katheryn York comes off like a fragile, privileged white woman who never worked a day in her life. The character development with her takes place as she slowly reveals her past life as a performer in love with a man of a different race. It is almost as if Katheryn has a suspicion the day will end for her the way events unfold. She is the most complicated character in the story.
Roman is a dynamic city kid. Things didn’t come easy for him. He worked hard to earn a college degree. Roman is a gay African American man who has mixed feelings about how he feels for Katheryn York. He can view her one minute as a privileged white woman, and the next second has compassion for her suffering. The reader can feel his emotional struggle as he navigates with Katheryn York throughout the day.
Writing Style in Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
At times, the third person storytelling in Afternoon at Bergdorf’s seems unconventional. The story isn’t told from straightforward one person point of view. While the characters are well developed, they at times feel stereotypical. The language was clear. Each of the voices had it’s own distenctive personality. The story moved quick, so the reader never had a chance to get bored.
Summation of Afternoon at Bergdorf’s
I found the time I spent with Afternoon at Bergdorf’s rewarding. The story was intriguing, the characters interesting, and the writing spoke to my soul. I could picture myself riding the subway with Joe or encountering Katheryn and Roman in Central Park. I will add a warning to this review. If you offended easily by vulgarity, you might want to skip the Joe Tiller chapters. The man is disrespectful and profane. The author is gay, so there was no gay-bashing intended in the creation of any of the characters.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. Of course, I might be slightly biased because I’m the author’s mother. You can purchase Afternoon at Bergdorf’s at https://t.co/hkGVK9u242?amp=1.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
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