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 by Michael Lowenthal
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


“No, no,” he said. His gaze skittered oddly across her features, as though following the flight of a bug he hoped to swat.

“You can help me, miss. I’m sure you can.”

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, nervous not only that her incompetence would be spotted (what did she know of boning or figured broché?) but that the clerks would be mad at her for meddling.

“But you see,” said the man, leaning over the counter so that Frieda smelled his oversweet breath, “I’m aiming to surprise a lady friend. Naturally, I wasn’t able to ask her size. But you look just about her dimensions. The salesclerk, if I may say, is a bit too saggy in the bosom.”

He stretched saggy to sound exactly like its meaning, and Frieda couldn’t stifle a rising laugh.

“Would you mind terribly telling me your size?” he said. “I lack any experience in these matters.”

His voice was cultured, Frieda thought, the kind of voice that could get away with talking French — words like amour and sonata (or was that Spanish?). He had a moth-eaten attractiveness, his features clearly hand-me- downs from a previous, more vital self. His eyes were the color of tarnished pennies.

“Eaton,” he said. “George Eaton. Would you help me?”

The first and last rule in the Jordan Marsh manual: The customer must always be served. Frieda told the man her measurements.

Soon enough she found herself wrapping a large package of their priciest hand-embroidered undergarments: fine albatross, in slow-burn shades of rose. Grace Fitzroy, who’d booked the sale, took the finished bundle and gave it, Frieda saw, to Eaton.

But instead of heading left, toward the bank of elevators, he turned right and sauntered straight to Frieda. Atop the package sat his careful note: “For you, with the hope that I might see how they become you. Meet me out front. Six o’clock.”

As soon as he was gone, Lou came rushing. “You batty, Frieda? Why’d you talk to him?”

“He’s a customer. He asked for my advice.”

“Not him, though. He’s notorious! Why didn’t you mind my signal?”

When Frieda professed ignorance, Lou had to explain that two taps of the timepiece meant Watch out. The store teemed with disreputable men. “Next time,” she admonished, “tell him off.”

Frieda couldn’t fathom why the gifts should be returned — hadn’t Eaton paid for them in cash? — but Lou and Grace said she had to do it. (Grace crossed herself: “There but for God.”) Obediently Frieda gave them up, but kept as her secret where she planned to go at closing time. She exited as usual by the employees’ alley door, then crept round, keeping in the shadows. George Eaton was waiting by the main glass-door entrance, whistling a nonchalant song. Whistling and waiting, just for her.

Frieda stood trembling — ten minutes, fifteen — studying this man who wanted her. Eaton placidly tipped his hat to passersby, now and again checked his pocket watch. She couldn’t quite judge if he was dashing or disturbing — or if maybe there wasn’t all that big a difference. How would it feel to ask so boldly for what you wanted?

She took two jittery steps in his direction, then scuttled back to shadowed safety. Her tongue turned edgy, sharp within her mouth. And her heart, by the time Eaton shrugged and loped away, thumped so hard she feared it might bruise.

Which is how she feels now, minus the doubt: Felix is no lewd lurker preying on the guileless; he’s a mensch, a U.S. Army private, ready to brave the trenches Over There. (His uniform! Its manful, raspy feel.) Sure, maybe she’s loony — they’ve kept company but the once, which ended with Frieda running off — but something tells her he might be a keeper. She knows it by the fierce, delicious tension in her joints. Her whole self is a knuckle that needs cracking.

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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Summer Before the War
    by Helen Simonson
    Set on the cusp of World War I, The Summer Before the War exudes strength and spirit as a small town...
  • Book Jacket: Lincoln in the Bardo
    Lincoln in the Bardo
    by George Saunders
    George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo is a philosophy discourse brilliantly disguised as a ...
  • Book Jacket
    Tender
    by Belinda McKeon
    Most of us have heard the slightly trite saying: "If you love something, set it free." But one can ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Sellout
by Paul Beatty

The first book by an American author to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    A Piece of the World
    by Christina Baker Kline

    A stunning novel of friendship, passion, and art from the #1 bestselling author of Orphan Train.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    I See You
    by Clare Mackintosh

    A dark and compelling thriller about an everyday woman trapped in the confines of her everyday world.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Your F C

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.