Synopses & Reviews
Here's a memorable tale of two unlikely heroes: the lively, beautiful Flora and her husband, the brooding, studious Simon, two immigrants, both sent to America by their families to find a better life. An improbable match, they meet in New York City and fall in love. Simon--inventor of the jigsaw puzzle--eventually makes his fortune. Now wealthy, Flora and Simon become obsessed with rescuing those they left behind in Europe, loved ones whose fates will be determined by growing anti-Semitism on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Puzzle King explores a fascinating moment in history with a cast of characters who endure with dignity, grace, and hope for the future.
"Carter (Swim to Me) mines her family history in this underwhelming novel that examines the lives and loves of Jewish immigrants in early 20th-century New York. Nine-year-old Simon Phelps is sent by his mother from Lithuania to America, where he grows up poor but ambitious on the Lower East Side. He meets German-born Flora Grossman, and their marriage and ascent into American success forms the linchpin for the familiar tales of immigrants vacillating between the New World and the Old. The interwoven stories of Flora and her sisters Seema, the kept mistress of a WASP banker, and the somber Margot, who endures an austere life in post-WWI Germany highlight the different paths for German-Jewish women. Meanwhile, Simon's booming career in the advertising world is tempered by the grief he feels as he searches for his lost family, though his success enables him to plan a bold mission of salvation. Unfortunately, the narrative, while admirable in scope, feels too beholden to its source material, with the remote, speculative tone making this often feel more like a historian's work than a novelist's." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Skillfully using ties to her own family, Carter weaves a compelling story and a rich, multilayered novel around three Jewish sisters and deftly captures the squalor and bustle of early 20th century New York . . . A fine novel with twists and turns and pieces that interlock tightly . . . Carter at her best." --The Miami Herald
San Francisco Book Review
"It's a rare treat when a novel's literary merit can compete with its capacity to entertain . . . Carter, a consummate storyteller, cobbles declarative sentences from diction so unexpected that readers rush from one vivid image and scene to the next until the book's characters, their culture and the caveats of their existence are as real as anyone and anything has ever been." --The Louisville Courier-Journal
The Louisville Courier-Journal
"Everybody loves an inspiring rags-to-riches story, and The Puzzle King
delivers that in spades . . . [it tells] the immigrant story from a uniquely relationship-and family-based perspective, all the while honoring their bravery and stoicism in the face of great odds." --San Francisco Book Review
Inspired by her own family's legends, Carter tells a story of unlikely heroes, the lively, beautiful Flora and her husband, the brooding, studious Simon, two German Jewish immigrants who are each sent to America by their families to find better lives.
About the Author
Betsy Carter is the author of Swim to Me
and The Orange BlossomSpecial
. Her memoir, Nothing to Fall Back On
, was a national bestseller. She is a contributing editor for O: The Oprah Magazine
and writes for Good Housekeeping
, New York
, and AARP,
among others. Carter formerly served as an editor at Esquire
, and Harper's Bazaar
, and was the founding editor of New York Woman
. She lives in New York City.