Excerpt from Charity Girl by Michael Lowenthal, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Charity Girl

By Michael Lowenthal

Charity Girl
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jan 2007,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2008,
    336 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


From the skein, she snips off a prickly length of twine. She’ll count to ten — no, twenty — then allow a quick peek up. By then, she thinks, he’ll be right here. Here.

She’s at twelve — doubting she can last eight further counts — when a lady’s treacly voice says, “Frieda Mintz?”

Instinct almost makes Frieda deny it. She hates to hear her name asked as a question. In a tiny, grudging tone she says, “I’m her.”

“Good, then. Wonderful. How easy.”

Get on with it, Frieda wants to say.

Get on with it and get the heck away from my counter so I can be alone when Felix shows.

The lady has a damsel’s braids the color of a dusty blackboard, as though her schoolgirl self was aged abruptly. Her smile shows a neat set of teeth. “I’m sorry to have come to your workplace,” she says, “but it’s all the information we were given. Is there somewhere we can speak more privately?”

Only now does Frieda see that Felix isn’t coming, that her visitor is — who? How does this stranger know her name? The pressure in her joints pinches tight. “No,” she says. “I’ve got to stay. I’m working.”

“But I really must speak with you, Miss Mintz.”

“I had my break already,” Frieda says.

“Then I guess we’ll just have to talk here.” The woman shivers slightly, hunch-shouldered and indignant, like someone caught suddenly in the rain. “I’m Mrs. Sprague. I’m with the Committee on Prevention of Social Evils Surrounding Military Camps.”

The long, daunting name is a gale that buffets Frieda, dizzying, disorienting. Evils.

“You’re familiar with our work?”

Frieda manages to mumble no.

“Well, we’re trying to do our bit to win the war. For those of us who can’t actually enlist ourselves and fight, that means supporting our boys in every way — isn’t that right?”

Mrs. Sprague’s churchy tone reminds Frieda of the man who came into Jordan’s last Thursday to train a squad of four-minute speakers. (As if Boston needs another squad! At every movie hall and subway stop she’s heard them, preaching in the same zealous accent.) When Frieda walked past the employees’ room at lunch, she heard the speech coach’s red-blooded baritone (“Whenever possible, address crowds in the first-person plural. It makes them feel invested, don’t we think?”) and the class’s steel- trap response (“We do!”).

“I said, isn’t that right, Miss Mintz?”

Frieda stares at her twine-roughened fingers. “Suppose so.”

“You ‘suppose.’ But do you really understand?” The lady’s smile widens, showing more tidy teeth. “Too many girls — too many pretty ones like you — get their desire to help soldiers all mixed up with . . . well, with desire itself.”

How does she know of Frieda’s longing for a soldier? Did she spy her with Felix at the ballgame? (The game was the only public place they went.) “And here’s something I bet you haven’t heard,” says Mrs. Sprague. “Have you heard that more soldiers are hospitalized now with social diseases than with battle wounds?”

Frieda, in confusion, shakes her head. How could a disease be something social?

“Most girls don’t know that. Most don’t want to. And if a soldier’s hurt when he goes over the top, that’s the price of freedom, and we’ll pay it. But any man hit by this other kind of sickness — well, he’s crippled in his body and his soul.” The last word seems to trigger something in the woman; she takes one of her gray braids and twists it round her thumb, as if remembering long-ago pain. “A bullet wound can heal. Not a soul.”

Copyright © 2007 by Michael Lowenthal. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  19The Arsonist:
    Sue Miller
  2.  103Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.