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:

  • 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


Frieda glimpses Mr. Crowley standing ten yards off, with the floorwalker from the Notions department. Can he hear? Does he see that she’s not wrapping? Twice last week he scolded her for minuscule infractions (sitting before her break, excessive laughter). What would he inflict for this transgression? “You’re scaring me,” she says to the strange woman. “Would you please leave?” She grabs a slip of tissue to stuff within a frock, but her fingers only fold the flimsy paper.

“No,” says Mrs. Sprague. “No, I can’t. It seems that your name and address — well, the fact that you work here — were given by a soldier to the Camp Devens guard — and then to our Committee on Prevention — when the soldier was found to be infected.”

“Infected?”

Mrs. Sprague colors and looks down, away from Frieda.

She plucks a mote of cotton from her sleeve. “You might have heard the layman’s terms. The pox. The clap.” Despite her lowered voice, the consonants resound; the smack of them seems to make her wince. “The soldier has reported that you were his last contact. We have to assume you were the source.”

But Frieda thought you had to “go the limit” to risk sickness — and she hasn’t, not with anyone but Felix. (Well, and Jack Galassi, but that was long ago.) “Felix?” she says. “I don’t . . . I can’t believe it.”

“I’m not at liberty to disclose the soldier’s name.”

Lou arrives with two piqué petticoats to be wrapped, and piles them onto Frieda’s growing backlog. She taps Frieda’s right shoulder: You all right?

Frieda nods, but the movement nauseates her. In the teeter of her panic she tries to summon Felix’s face; haziness is all that she can muster. His smell, though, storms upon her — pistachios, spilled spirits — and the agitated rapture of his kisses.

“Okay?” Lou says, this time aloud.

Before Frieda can answer, Mr. Crowley sees them huddled and he scowls; Lou returns to her customers.

“You’re lucky,” explains Mrs. Sprague. “Because you met this soldier outside of the moral zone, we don’t have authority to arrest you. And we can’t force a medical exam.” She peers at Frieda as if judging the future of a stained dress. Is it salvageable as rags, or just trash? “But here’s warning: if you’re found anywhere within five miles of Camp Devens — or any installation for that matter — believe me, you’ll be head and ears in trouble. Stay away from the town of Ayer. Hear?”

As if ducking a blow, Frieda nods.

“Our hope,” Mrs. Sprague continues, her tone a bit tempered, “is that you’ll volunteer for medical care — and help us all by helping your own health. It’s not too late to turn away from ruin.”

But Frieda can taste the ruin already, a spoiled-milk acridness near her tonsils. She feels sweat — or something worse? — beneath her skirts.

Mrs. Sprague finds a pad and pencil in her purse. “Do you live at home? We’d like to reach your parents.”

“They’re dead,” Frieda mutters. (Papa is; Mama might as well be.)

“You’re adrift.” The woman marks something in her book. “Then tell me where you yourself live.”

“Harrison,” comes out automatically, but she’s quick enough to falsify the number. “Seventy-two,” she says — Mama’s Chambers Street address.

“Telephone?”

Frieda shakes her head.

Mrs. Sprague makes another note and tucks her pad away, looking saddened by the thought of such privation. One after the other she lifts her gray braids, which have fallen in front of her hunched shoulders, and places them back behind her neck.

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
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Stalin's Daughter
    by Rosemary Sullivan
    "There is something fatal about my life. You can't regret your fate, though I do regret my ...
  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

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.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!