Make It Good

The Stories in My Early Life

Non-Fiction - Memoir
188 Pages
Reviewed on 04/23/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Linda Wright for Readers' Favorite

Make It Good: The Stories in My Early Life by Barry Sheinkopf is an unusual memoir. Each of the eleven chapters portrays experiences which the author explains were “aha!" moments for him. There are poignant scenes with his father during a train trip to Florida, and also during his early religious education when he is expelled from Yeshiva, not once but three times. And there are evocative scenes when he travels with his mother to Paris to visit a cousin who was paralyzed. The time when he left his own career to help his mother in the family export business after his father died gives the reader an inside view of the garment district of New York.

The writing reflects the author’s experience as a voracious reader, photographer and poet. Each scene is written with precision and clarity. I would have enjoyed this book just for the milieu of New York City alone. The characters are well developed and engaging. I frequently felt as if I was a voyeur peeking into a youth very unlike my own. In Sheinkopf’s preface, he explains that he asked himself “But so what?” after every chapter. Further, he ponders, “and what will it mean to a reader?” I took that as an invitation to read this book with an openness to questions rather than answers. Because the author does not directly tell us his own revelations, he leaves room to explore the possibilities. Make It Good: The Stories in My Early Life is, as Sheinkopf intended, both entertaining and amusing. It is also thought provoking.

Robert Lavett Smith, Linda Principe

“Barry Sheinkopf achieves the seemingly impossible: a seamless fusing of genres that creates something entirely, marvelously, new. While the incidents it recounts are undeniably autobiographical, it more closely resembles a gathering of anecdotes than a traditional memoir. With gentle irony and genuine pathos, his supple, lucid prose evokes the clarity of Hemingway, while his gift for exquisitely rendered detail brings to mind the later writings of Capote. The stories he lived through instruct the reader
without moralizing or preaching. The result is an intimate journey through the heart of days well lived, which entertains even as it draws us ever more deeply into the richness of the world. Make it Good is very good indeed.”
—Robert Lavett Smith, author of "Sturgeon Moon" and "The Widower Considers Candles"

“A glorious read! From his ride with his dad on the Miami-bound Silver Meteor to his multiple suspensions from yeshiva for asking the right questions, from the streets of New York City to his travels through Israel, every life-shaping moment is suffused with the insights of a poet and the evocative imagery of a photographer. This series of vignettes from the author’s early life doesn’t simply ‘make it good.’ In the hands of a master storyteller, they are unforgettable.”
—Linda Principe, author of "Surviving Murder: A True Crime Memoir"

“In this by turns funny, instructive, and almost breathtakingly poignant memoir, Barry Sheinkopf shines a light on a unique period of Jewish-American history: the economically booming years following World War II. In his hands, this is not a history of the Jewish people. It is his own memoir, his own account and vision. But it is rooted in a time and place in which the modern American-Jewish community came of age. He brings his finely tuned ability to observe people, places, and situations to the core of Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue, which became, for him, another place of learning, different from Yeshiva University and City College but, in its own way, just as rich.”
—Susan L. Rosenbluth, editor and publisher, TheJewishVoiceAndOpinion.com