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

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Charity Girl

By Michael Lowenthal

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

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The gesture’s exactness reminds Frieda of Jenny Cohn, the best- off girl in first grade; every day, Jenny brought her doll to school and shared it, encouraging Frieda to pretend, but all the while would stand there watching every move, ready to snatch the doll away if Frieda played wrong.

“I know life is hard,” says Mrs. Sprague, “for a girl like you. But believe me, it could get a great deal worse. I visit the girls we catch — we have a brig in the Ayer Town Hall — and I’ll tell you, they don’t look very well. Once they’ve really come a cropper, they’re begging for their old problems.”

“Excuse me, ma’am,” says Mr. Crowley, fast upon them. Spittle wets his mustache at its twists. “Miss Mintz here has some purchases to wrap. If you need assistance, can one of the salesladies help you?”

“No,” she says. “My business here is done.” Then to Frieda: “We do this because we care — remember that. I’ll hope to see you soon. It’s not too late.” She turns toward the elevators and disappears.

Frieda doesn’t look at her, and not at Mr. Crowley, but at the mound of unmentionables on the counter. She folds two chiffon negligees — slippery, obscene — and boxes them as fast as she can manage, cutting string, tying stony knots.

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

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