We all see things differently. When we survey the world around us, we each bring our histories, our hopes for the future, our moral compass (or the lack thereof) to bear. Such is certainly the case in Postcards From Wonderland. Here the world is a seaside enclave in Massachusetts, circa 1920. The area, like the amusement park at the heart of it, is but a shell of what it once was. Perhaps the lives of the inhabitants are too. They simply don't know it yet.
Rose is a young wife who works part time in a department store. Her husband, Isador, floats from one thing to another always seeing greener pastures in the next job rather than the one he holds. His big dreams lead to bad decisions and unfortunate associations with Jewish gangsters, such as Earl, the brutish enforcer who has set aside his conscience for steady work, and Mosko, the gang's leader, whose sophisticated demeanor is as illusionary as the facades that front the decaying pleasure park.
Distinct echoes of E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime haunt the pages of Simmons' novel. His was one of grander sweep as he chronicled the famous and the unknown caught up in the beginning of a new century. Simmons' story is much more intimate, yet still the fading of one way of life and the promise of another sparks positive similarities. The author's interplay of the innocent and the unsavory in this crumbling seaside neighborhood also brings to mind Graham Green's classic, Brighton Rock. Simmons has done an excellent job of creating a distinct time and place, and intriguing characters to inhabit it. Her story of Rose and Isador and the life-changing events that surround them will stay long after you have turned the last page.