The Bottom Line: Think the Corleones are the ultimate crime family? Meet the Gimmelmans, whose exhilarating crime spree fuels this rip-roaring romp through the late 1980s.
Set in the late 80s, The Great Gimmelmans is narrated by Aaron Nicholas Gimmelman, whose parents lose everything in the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. After the repossession of their cars, valuables and home, they’re left with an RV dubbed The Gimmelmans’ Getaway Gas-Guzzler. Shortly after taking to the road, Aaron, his siblings and their parents each commit minor, uncoordinated acts of theft.
What begins as stealing gummy bears soon turns into a truly shocking idea: a family bank robbery.
In what is author Lee Matthew Goldberg’s most entertaining book yet, the Gimmelmans aren’t merely a mild-mannered Jewish family prompted to do the unthinkable because they’re up to their eyeballs in debt. They’re also wildly funny and warm, sharing a closeness and unique rage borne out of a history of trauma. Aaron’s grandparents’ survival of the holocaust is a miracle, and yet the existence of such a global tragedy has shaped their views toward faith in God and the very meaning of life. Black Monday only fuels the feeling that they are being victimized by people powerful enough to crush them into oblivion, and those who get in their way may be met with lethal consequences.
That doesn’t mean they’ll always be a harmonious unit. Some of the book’s most compelling moments come as they come to loggerheads about life’s big decisions.
The family’s endlessly entertaining banter as they plot, scheme and come to grips with their individual and collective identities would be worth the price of admission alone. But once the media picks up on the story – dubbing them the Wild Woodstock Gang due to the celebrity masks they wear during their crimes – the experience becomes something truly special.
Goldberg, whose previous books are nothing like The Great Gimmelmans in tone or concept, proves himself to be a true chameleon here. Goldberg delivers just as many laughs as tender moments, and 80s aficionados will adore how carefully crafted The Gimmelmans’ world is.