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A captivating debut novel, Hidden marvelously re-creates New York City in the 1920s, from the hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side to the hushed hallways of the homes of the rich and powerful. In graceful, eloquent prose, Victoria Lustbader presents a fierce, compelling story of loyalty, forbidden desire and the end of innocence.
Both panoramic and intimate, Hidden teems with complex characters readers will embrace and remember for a long time to come. Concealing their passions and innermost thoughts even from those they love most dearly, the Warshinskys and Gateses love, lust, seize power, do battle, and strive to rule themselves and their city during a decade of turmoil at home and abroad.
The battlefield traumas of The Great War cement an improbable friendship between Jed Gates, scion of the wealthy Gates family, and David Warshinsky, first-generation American from New York's poverty-ridden lower East Side. David sacrifices his family and his Jewish heritage in pursuit of his untamable ambition, while, in eerie parallel, Jed sacrifices his private desires to assume the burdens of familial expectations.
David's young sister Sarah suffers the torments of a sweatshop and hardens her heart to the brother she once adored. Jed's rebellious sister Lucy becomes a nurse in Margaret Sanger's revolutionary birth control clinic. Sarah finds a tender love in sensitive Reuben Winokur, an immigrant tailor destined to prosper in his new country, but Lucy's path is more treacherous - she falls hard for David, who belongs to another.
David's mother Anna loses her struggle to preserve her shattered family, sundered by hatred and privation. And not even the Gateses' vast wealth can protect Jed's aunt Zoe from the violent abuses of her alcoholic husband, or his artist father Philip from the pain of his wife's rejection of his love and kindness.
Brilliantly evoking time, place, and person, Hidden draws readers deep into the past to illuminate the present. For nothing is more eternal than human feeling, and nothing more important to the human heart.
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Hidden is Victoria Lustbader's first novel. She was for many years a fiction editor at Harper & Row and The Putnam Publishing Group. Following that, she enjoyed a second career with The Nature Conservancy on Long Island and New York State. She is now a full-time writer, living in New York City and Long Island, and is married to novelist Eric Van Lustbader.
Jed was fidgeting uncontrollably. After torturous hours of waiting, he was nearly to the long row of tables manned by army officials registering the endless line of men who had come to the 69th Regiment Armory to enlist. Men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one were required to register. Jed was only eighteen, but the decision to join up had come upon him like a thunderbolt on the very day in April that war had been declared. It had come to him with the undeniability of a sign from God. He did not question it and for two months had refused to consider the consequences of having made a major life decision on his own when all previous decisions had been made for him by his mother and grandfather. Rather, he had told no one, not even his sister, Lucy. He had kept his plan a secret so that his mother would have no chance to subvert his will and take his choice away from him. But during these past four hours amidst a restless crowd of rough and determined-looking men, Jed had grown increasingly confused as to just what he imagined he was doing. A sudden urge to turn and flee, to save himself--although he couldn't say from what--took hold of him. Now, the deed about to be done, he struggled to maintain his faith in the face of his dread of his mother's reaction. His stomach clenched into a fist as he pictured himself telling her what he had done. His equilibrium teetered and his body torqued. With one graceless lurch his elbow landed firmly in the back of the man in front of him. The fellow whirled around faster than a guard dog, jaw set with menace.
"I'm so sorry. Nerves, you know. Having trouble standing still."
Jed's apologetic blue gaze collided with a pair of feral light brown eyes shot through with golden specks. He felt as though something had slammed into his chest. The eyes bored through him, taking his measure and dismissing him in the few seconds it took to look him up and down. Without responding to Jed's apology, the other man turned away. Although Jed had been the one rudely treated, he knew that it was he who must have somehow done something inappropriate, shown himself to be dismissable. He was instantly embarrassed by his beautifully tailored silk gabardine suit, his elegant hat pushed back on his thick dark-blond hair, by the fact that he was comfortably cool in the clotted June heat. The man in front of him was sweating into his well-worn, coarse cotton clothing; his brown hair was damp and unruly, inexpertly cut. Yet despite his obvious low-class origins and the fact that he couldn't have been much older than Jed himself, once seen full-on he was impossible to ignore. He exuded a spiking, confident energy, even now, with his back turned. It washed over Jed like a balm and subdued his cowardly urge. He squared his own jaw as his confidence returned.
David turned his back on the man behind him, aware that he was being rude and not caring. There was no point in talking to someone like that, a wealthy goy, the undoubtedly pampered son of a long line of pampered sons who had gotten rich exploiting poor immigrant families like his own. People with sleek golden hair and long elegant limbs encased in suits of fine material, people who looked like they owned the world and knew they deserved it, didn't want to know people like David. What right did golden boy have to look at him with friendly eyes? He didn't mean it. David had met plenty of people like him before. If they were to speak, he'd be unfailingly polite and leave David feeling like a servant.
The last man between him and the registration table was finally finished being processed and David stepped up quickly, eager to get this ordeal over with and leave. As he held out his papers, an older, larger man rushed forward and tried to elbow him aside. The jockeying had been going on all day, as hot, weary men took advantage of the loosely monitored lines; the soldiers had broken up several fights already. David pushed back and barked, "Hey, I got here first. Wait your turn."
The man grabbed David's arm and shoved him away from the table. "Get outta my way, you little snot. I been waitin' here six hours. Go back to your mommy for a diaper change."
With the finely honed instincts of the eternally persecuted and perpetually defensive, David chopped down on the man's wrist with his free hand and kicked viciously at an exposed ankle. "Putz! Kush meer in tokhes!"
The man yelped in pain. "Fuck you, kike!" He lunged at David, his greater weight bringing them both crashing to the floor. David flailed at the man's sides and face, trying to land at least one good punch. Before either man had a chance to do any damage, they were pulled apart and yanked to their feet, voices of authority telling them to cut it out, now.
Mesmerized, Jed watched the altercation unfold in front of him. He heard every ugly word, could almost feel each increasingly violent contact. He saw rage suffuse the exotic features of the boy pinned to the ground, his dusky olive skin now redly undertinged with his racing blood. Jed's own blood rose and his heart beat wildly. Before he knew what he was doing, he had thrown a hold--perfected during years as captain of the wrestling team at Browning--around the bull neck of the older man, dragging him off his slighter prey, hissing at him, "We don't use such language in civil society."
Soldiers materialized around the tussling threesome. One of them pulled Jed off the big man and began leading him toward the tables at the far end of the hall. He patted Jed's back. "Nice work there, son. Wish more like you were signing up." But Jed wasn't interested in the soldier's approbation. He wrenched around, his eyes searching for the boy on the ground. He was on his feet now, being herded in the opposite direction. His mouth was slightly open as though he wanted to speak, and he was staring directly at Jed. Their eyes locked and Jed's head swam as he read the boy's thoughts in his piercing, distrustful gaze. Who are you? Why did you help me? What do you want? Jed didn't know the answers.
David emerged into the early-afternoon furnace of 26th Street and Lexington Avenue, the air only barely cooler on the street than it had been inside the Armory building. He knew he should catch the Second Avenue El downtown and get back to work as quickly as possible, but he needed to move, to shake out his pent-up energy. Before exiting the still-mobbed hall, he had taken a second to look for the blond boy who had pulled that miserable bigoted piece of shit off him; it wouldn't kill him to say thank you. He hadn't seen him, nor did he see him in the crowd of men milling around the Armory's entrance. It was impossible to find anyone. David gave up and began walking.
Lexington Avenue ended at 21st Street, at small, lush Gramercy Park. David stopped and leaned into the tall wrought-iron fence, breathed in the tree-cooled air. He rattled at the locked gate, meant to keep out intruders like himself; only residents of the elegant buildings around the park had keys to this private green oasis. David's gaze swept across the park's interior and then took in the brownstones, town houses, and low apartment buildings bordering it on all four sides. This was where he would live someday, he promised himself for the thousandth time. He would have a key and the right to breathe its perfumed air any time he chose.
David walked on, around the park's perimeter and down Irving Place, unaware that a blond boy, cool in ecru silk gabardine, a key to the park in his pocket, walked carefully half a block behind him.
Jed waited outside the Armory entrance until he saw the dark-haired boy come out. He saw the yellow-flecked eyes scan the crowd and he shrank back against the red stone wall. He thought the boy might be looking for him. He didn't know what he would say. He watched the mop of dark hair, long and curling against the collar of a faded blue shirt, bob down Lexington Avenue, and he followed at a safe distance. He stopped across 21st Street while the boy leaned on the park fence, then followed him again, past his own front door at 21 Gramercy Park South, down Irving Place, into the hubbub of 14th Street, west two blocks to Broadway, turning downtown again to 13th Street, where the boy disappeared into the ornate entrance of the Horn & Hardart Automat. Jed stood outside, his heart pounding. What was he doing? Why was he so intrigued by this angry, disheveled Jew in shabby clothing? Jed came from a world far above his; they couldn't possibly have anything in common. And yet Jed wanted to look into those eyes again, see the unwavering conviction in them that he'd seen this morning.
He'd never been inside an Automat. Mother said it was for the hoi polloi. But he'd heard that they had delicious coffee and he was fascinated by the idea of depositing nickels into a slot, opening a little door, and finding food waiting there for you. And today was certainly the day for disobeying his mother. He slipped into the hungry human stream and let himself be swept away.
"Mind if I join you?"
David looked up from his dish of macaroni and cheese to see the blond boy standing at the table, a cup of coffee in one hand and a small plate with two chocolate-frosted cupcakes in the other. A hopeful smile on his handsome Gentile face. David covered his surprise by waving carelessly at the chair across from him and muttering, "Suit yourself."
Jed put his coffee and cake on the table, lowered himself into the surprisingly comfortable chair. In an agitated rush that revealed a nervousness he could not control, he proceeded to lie, as he knew he must. "What a coincidence! I was coming for a cup of this great coffee when I saw you through the window. Thought I'd come over and make sure you were all right."
"I'm fine," David said, blunt and ungenerous. He stared impolitely at the smooth, pale face until the genial smile froze in confusion. He retreated, tilted his head in a gesture of acknowledgment. "I appreciate what you did. Thank you."
"Forget it," Jed said. Faint pink stains bloomed on the ivory skin of his cheeks. "That fellow was an animal. I was afraid he'd bash your head in. What did you say to him, anyway?"
"I called him a dick and told him he could kiss my ass. I doubt if he understood Yiddish, but he sure as hell knew I'd insulted him."
David stared into eyes the color of those little flowers on the climbing vine some optimist had planted in a stingy patch of earth by the back porch of the settlement house on Henry Street: not quite blue, not quite lavender, not pale, but not dark, either. He waited to see their innocent curiosity turn to revulsion now that he'd revealed himself as a Jew and paraded his crudeness and lack of self-discipline. When he saw the eyes filling with genuine amusement, he grinned despite himself, and suddenly they were both laughing, at the lunacy of what had happened, at the unlikelihood of having managed to start a conversation.
Jed wiped his eyes and held out his hand. "I'm Jed Gates. Well, Joseph Edward really, but everyone calls me Jed."
The slightest delay, just a heartbeat, before David offered his hand in return. "David Warshinsky."
Warshinsky shook hands warmly enough, but Jed had noted his hesitation. "I won't hit you in the back again; I promise," he joked.
"I wouldn't let you." David scrutinized Jed thoroughly, his gaze lingering on the expensive suit, the swell hat, the gleaming hair, the friendly face. Men like Jed rarely offered to shake David's hand. His wariness returned. Still, there was something in the clear blue eyes, something honest and ingratiating, that softened David's reflexive distrust and dislike. Softened but did not eradicate. He stretched his legs out in front of him and crossed his arms over his chest. "You don't look like someone who'd be comfortable shaking hands with a low-class Jew."
Jed was taken aback, but only momentarily. He had met Jews; he'd even recognized that David had cursed that man in Yiddish. Jews were all around Wall Street, all around Hanover Square where the Gates Building was. He worked with a few during his summers at J. Gates, his grandfather's department store, and never thought twice about what they were. His grandfather had Jewish business colleagues. His father, too, knew fellow artists who were Jews, emigrants from Eastern Europe. But Jed had never known his family to socialize with a Jew, let alone one so obviously from the lowest working class. Jed wasn't stupid; he knew that no Jew, not even a wealthy, successful one, was truly welcome in the world he inhabited. He thought it best to simply ignore David's challenge.
"That man who jumped on you, he thinks we're too young to be in the army." Jed put a swagger of unconcern into his voice to hide his fear that the man might be right.
"Yeah, well, he's just full of shit," David said unhesitatingly. "An eighteen-year-old can fight as well as anyone. Believe me, I know."
"You're eighteen? So am I. You seem older."
"Poverty has a way of aging you quickly," David said flatly. "What the hell are you staring at?"
Jed was staring at David's face, a perfectly young, imperfectly arresting eighteen-year-old face, now that Jed looked carefully. He was staring specifically at the five-inch white filament of an obviously old scar that ran from just in front of David's left ear down along his jawline and disappeared under his chin.
"Did you get that in a fight?" Jed knew he should drop his eyes, but he couldn't.
"No. I got it when someone who looked a lot like you took serious offense at my trying to kiss his sister."
He held Jed's eyes, his look bold and invasive. Jed felt himself squirm inside. He understood how someone might want to hit David. Then David smiled and his eyes warmed. Jed felt as though the sun had emerged from behind a cloud to shine just on him.
"Jed. Go on, drink your coffee before it gets cold."
Jed tore his eyes from David's face and took a cautious sip. "Oh my God! This is really good coffee!" He looked down at the heavy porcelain cup as though it had mutated to gold in his hands.
"Haven't you had it before? It's the best coffee in the city."
"Yes, well, no, well actually . . . I've never been in here before at all. My mother most definitely would not approve."
David smirked. "And do you do everything your mother tells you?"
"Oh no. She certainly didn't tell me to enlist, I can assure you." Jed didn't see David's face or catch the baiting edge in his voice. In delighted shock over the deliciousness of the coffee, Jed had turned his attention to one of his cupcakes. He took an exploratory bite and all but moaned in pleasure. "I can't believe this! These are as fabulous as anything my grandmother's cook makes! Who would think something so cheap could be so good!"
He looked up to share his discovery and found himself impaled by a hot, stony glare. He blanched. He held out the plate. ...
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Book Description Forge Books, 2006. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0765315564 Ships promptly from Texas. Seller Inventory # Z0765315564ZN
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