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Summary

Among the thousands of immigrants who arrive in New York harbor is an Eastern European stowaway called Kid Twist who earns his keep as an enforcer for the ruthless gangster Gyp the Blood. Soon though, Kid brutally splits with Gyp, leaving him bleeding from a shovel wound to the head in a rancid basement on the Lower East Side. His life now in jeopardy, Kid flees to Brooklyn, finding asylum with a Coney Island carny known as Trick the Dwarf.

While hiding out, Kid meets young Esther Abramowitz, a shirtwaist seamstress who labors under inhumane conditions. As their love affair blossoms, Esther emerges from quiet shop worker to foot soldier in the burgeoning labor movement. Changed by love, Kid, too, is no longer the ruthless scavenger he once was, as he prepares for an electrifying showdown with the vengeful Gyp the Blood.

Kevin Baker's deftly imagined blend of meticulous historical research and assured narrative invention recreates a world bursting at the seams, a world of freak shows, cataclysmic exhibitions, mad dwarves, and bathing beauties. In prose that is at once ferocious and breathtakingly lyrical, Dreamland weaves a richly layered tapestry that captures perfectly the emotional and psychological essence of the American experience at the dawn of a new age.

(P) and ©1999 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Critic reviews

"A powerful, deeply moving epic, an earthier, rowdier, more inclusive Ragtime....[A] populist masterpiece." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Dreamland

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  • MT
  • 01-03-19

Overall, okay...interesting story

The main story was interesting and probably an accurate portrayal of life back then. It was engaging and the reader brought much of it to life with accents.

I felt that the inclusion of tangential stories related to Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung didn’t make sense in the context of the overall story...kind of something else going on over here I a parallel universe. It just seemed that this aspect of the story was disjointed and incongruent the main story; and seemed oddly gratuitous with regards to the sexual issues it brought up.

I do feel that the ending was lazy, uninteresting and anticlimactic and I was disappointed how it came to such an abrupt end.

However, it does stir the imagination that is for sure and is descriptive enough to stir the images in ones mind of life during a much different time than we know now.

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  • Jess Conger
  • 07-03-20

One of my favorite books

Wow, I read this book for the first time more than a decade ago and it's one of my favorite books. I've read it a few times since, but downloading this was the first time I've listened to someone read it to me. When I looked at the reviews before listening I was astonished that no one liked it as much as I did. Well, after listening to this reading for a few minutes, I now understand. I have never heard a worse reader in Audible. Maybe some of his other works are good, but immediately you hear the contempt he holds these characters in. They're not people with rich inner lives he can express through his voice. They're stereotypes and props. Please read the book yourself if you are able, it deserves better than this reader.