1929. Buffalo, New York. A beautiful July day, the kind one waits for through the long, cold winters. Sadie Feldstein, née Cohen, looks out her window at the unexpected sight of her brother, Irving. His news is even more unexpected, and unsettling: their elder sister, Goldie, has vanished without a trace.
With Goldie's disappearance as the catalyst, The First Desire takes us deep into the life of the Cohen family and an American city, from the Great Depression to the years immediately following World War II. The story of the Cohens is seamlessly told from the various perspectives of siblings Sadie, Jo, Goldie, and Irvingeach of whose worlds is upended over the course of the novel, the smooth veneer of their lives giving way to the vulnerabilities and secrets they've managed to keep hiddenand through the eyes of Lillian, the beautiful woman their father, Abe, took as a lover as his wife was dying. But while Abe's affair with Lillian stuns his children, they are even more shocked by his cold anger in the wake of Goldie's disappearance.
The First Desire is a book of great emotional power that brings to life the weave of love, grief, tradition, and desire that binds a family together, even through the tumultuous times that threaten to tear it apart.
July, the air grassy and mild, the sort of morning Sadie waits for through the deep of Buffalo wintersmornings when it seems the city has surrendered to pleasure, to color and light. The harsh seasons are unimaginable. It's as if this is how all of life is meant to be; as if drinking coffee and reading, gardening and casual piano playing, are her true occupations; as if cardinals flashing through the yards and the lush green of lawns and the maple's fat leaves signal a permanent arrival. There are dahlias on the dining table, yellow and red, late strawberries. It's still early, and Sadie has an hour, maybe two, before the day's obligations intrude. The easy time, she thinks, the garden time. It's something she associates with marriagenot the image of a couple in the garden, but the luxury of time alone at her own house. A luxury apparent only after her mother's death, for which of course there is no compensation; but here is...
If you liked The First Desire, try these:
A teenage couple drive up to the Blessings estate late at night, leaving a box behind them. The estate caretaker finds a baby asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep her; and matriarch Lydia Blessing, for her own reasons, decides to help him.
With all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling Russo extends even further his claims on the small-town, blue-collar heart of the country.
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