Book Review ‘Saint Mazie’ by Jami Attenberg
Granted, Mazie Phillips is not an ordinary saint; she drinks
too much, swears, and has numerous careless sexual relations, but her
imperfections allow her to set aside judgement and simply help those who need
Believe it or not, Mazie Phillips is only a slightly
fictionalized character based upon the real-life, Mazie Phillips. In this, why
didn’t I think of that novel, Jami Attenberg does a beautiful job of
researching and arriving at a conjecture that ultimately translates into a
realism that is so believable it seems like she peered into Mazie’s mind so we could
enjoy a glimpse.
At some point, Mazie moved to Bowery, New York, where she
lived with her sister and brother-in-law. On the corner where Bowery fades into
Chinatown, in the midst of whatever might take place and whoever passed by,
Mazie spent her days in the ticket cage of the theater owned by her
That front row seat, clearly became Mazie’s observation deck,
gave her an intimate glimpse into the inner-dynamics of the city and the
individuals that frequented her line of vision. With her outgoing personality
and bodacious demeanor, she would not remain content to simply observe, Mazie
became a central figure in the community.
Familiar and trusted with a heart of gold and a stomach of
steel, Mazie broke out of her cage in the dark New York City night and helped
the down-trodden, the addicts, and the mentally ill. Her firm disposition and
vocabulary delivered in a strong husky voice apparently left little room for
argument, in other words, they responded to her well-intentioned demands. Mazie
got results and she gave time, energy, money, and direction to the needy.
The times were a roller-coaster ride, the Jazz Era, WWII, and
the depression, it was tough and things were changing. Like almost everything
in those days, Mazie is a dichotomy, at least by most people’s standards, but
to those she helped and her admirer’s she was a saint. Through diaries and
witness accounts along with some intellectual guesswork, empathy, and a whole
lot of wit Jami Attenberg nails it.
Read it, listen to it…Saint Mazie is definitely worth your
Published by Grand Central Publishing, Saint Mazie is
available at Amazon, Audible and other book retailers.
Review by Sammy Sutton|