The Fortunate Ones: Book summary and reviews of The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

The Fortunate Ones

by Ellen Umansky

The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2017
    336 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

One very special work of art - a Chaim Soutine painting - will connect the lives and fates of two different women, generations apart, in this enthralling and transporting debut novel that moves from World War II Vienna to contemporary Los Angeles.

It is 1939 in Vienna, and as the specter of war darkens Europe, Rose Zimmer's parents are desperate. Unable to get out of Austria, they manage to secure passage for their young daughter on a kindertransport, and send her to live with strangers in England.

Six years later, the war finally over, a grief-stricken Rose attempts to build a life for herself. Alone in London, devastated, she cannot help but try to search out one piece of her childhood: the Chaim Soutine painting her mother had cherished.

Many years later, the painting finds its way to America. In modern-day Los Angeles, Lizzie Goldstein has returned home for her father's funeral. Newly single and unsure of her path, she also carries a burden of guilt that cannot be displaced. Years ago, as a teenager, Lizzie threw a party at her father's house with unexpected but far-reaching consequences. The Soutine painting that she loved and had provided lasting comfort to her after her own mother had died was stolen, and has never been recovered.

This painting will bring Lizzie and Rose together and ignite an unexpected friendship, eventually revealing long-held secrets that hold painful truths. Spanning decades and unfolding in crystalline, atmospheric prose, The Fortunate Ones is a haunting story of longing, devastation, and forgiveness, and a deep examination of the bonds and desires that map our private histories.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Umansky's richly textured and peopled novel tells an emotionally and historically complicated story with so much skill and confidence it's hard to believe it's her first." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. The clarity of detail in Umansky's writing brings all her scenes to life. She sensitively addresses the complicated issue of survivor's guilt and leaves readers with a sense of hope." - Booklist

"Umansky's vivid telling of the scenes in Vienna and life in wartime London are lovingly juxtaposed against the modern angst of Southern California." - Publishers Weekly

"The journey the painting takes ends up being fairly pedestrian, and the denouement lacks the requisite drama. Umansky's debut holds promise, but the execution is ultimately uninspired. An optional purchase." - Library Journal

"Umansky's multilayered novel asks the big questions - who are we and who are the people we love? What can we, and what should we, forgive? How does history write itself on our lives and our society? - with compassion, tenderness, and a deft touch." - Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life

"The Fortunate Ones is a riveting, page-turning novel that investigates the true price of art and love and history. It is both magnificent in its sweep and intimate in its telling. And the end? It will take your breath away. Three cheers for Ellen Umansky's perfect debut." - Jennifer Gilmore, author of The Mothers

"Ellen Umansky is an absurdly gifted writer, and her masterful debut is so smart, so compelling, so emotionally and intellectually and morally complex, it will make you see the world in a completely different way. I loved, loved, loved this book." - Joanna Rakoff, internationally bestselling author of My Salinger Year

"In a story that spans decades and continents, Umansky takes readers on a journey that both challenges and affirms our notions of love, art, family, and sacrifice." - David Gillham, New York Times bestselling author of City of Women

"Ellen Umansky skillfully transports readers on from war-torn Vienna and London to present day Los Angeles and the journey is intriguing, memorable and worthwhile." - Pam Jenoff, internationally bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale

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Ellen Umansky has published fiction and nonfiction in a variety of venues, including the New York Times, Salon, Playboy, and the short-story anthologies Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge and Sleepaway: Writings on Summer Camp. She has worked in the editorial departments of several publications, including the Forward, Tablet, and the New Yorker. She grew up in Los Angeles, and now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.

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