Jeffrey Zaslow published his first novel, Never Cry More, in 1979. It was the first novel I had ever read and I can still remember the laughter I felt as I read it. Jeffrey Zaslow is an American journalist and author and also a novelist for The Wall Street Journal. He is well known for his criticism of American society in general. I enjoyed reading his humorous reviews of popular songs written about American songs.
Never Cry More is set in Depression-era New York City and follows the mischievous misadventures of an ambitious writer named Henry. One of his many mischievous acts involves having an affair with a Broadway nightclub wench. In retaliation, she empties her bottle of brandy on him. This gets him into trouble with the police. To make matters worse, his mistress then disappears.
Zaslow’s witty writing style makes this book enjoyable to read. Some of his quips include “Did you think you’d fall in love with me, Ms. Draper? I made that mistake too.” In another scene he quips, “My name is Jeff; you can call me Jeff.”
Zaslow is also known for his alternative takes on popular themes. One of his most famous books is Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller. In this novel Miller depicts the life of Gertrude Stein, an acclaimed playwright, creator of The Ring and The Dialogues, amongst many other accomplishments. However, in this novel, instead of portraying Stein as a celebrated playwright and author, as has been done throughout the past, we are instead introduced to her life as a failed saleswoman who only seems to be able to get to work by resorting to violence. Despite this, she also has a strong faith in her talent and her own ability to speak out against injustice and unfairness.
Another of Jeffrey Zaslow’s novels that I enjoyed was The Heavens Weep for me this was due in large part to the plot. It is centered on a man named Max Greaves who is an escaped slave who arrives at Ellis Island to deliver news of an uprising that has erupted in the prison facility that he works in. Once there, however, it becomes clear that what he sees is not a story of hope but an unfolding of horrors. The book quickly moves to the present, as a chain of events occurs that leave both Greaves and another man, John Coffey, with serious injuries. Coffey is in a coma while undergoing medical treatment and Greaves, after being attacked by other inmates, is left with serious scars. This leads both men to form an unlikely friendship.
I also enjoyed The Heavens Weep for the characters. It is written in a very realistic voice which makes the story feel very natural. The book also does a good job of describing the brutality of the times and how people dealt with such things then and are still dealing with them now. Also, as the book is rooted in the times it depicts so well, it makes for an interesting historical read as well. Of course, I also enjoyed it because it was written in first person and presented at a time when there were no computers and the internet yet to offer any real help. It is a very interesting look into a past that is relevant today.
At times, I felt that the book could have been trimmed a bit shorter. There were only a few short paragraphs where the writer tried to make things more engaging, but the rest of the book kept me reading with the occasional interruption. The plot did, however, become too melodramatic at points. Some of it, I admit, made me roll my eyes a bit. Other than that, this was a fun and entertaining book that won me over with its unique plot and very human characters.
Highly Recommended. I enjoyed this book just as much as I enjoyed Zaslow’s other books. If you enjoy historical fiction, which also delves into the realm of medicine, this is a must read. If not, this book is also excellent as a short story with excellent character development.