|NEW YORK CITY BETWEEN TWO WORLD WARS
A Jewish family struggles to stay together and hold onto their house
during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression
Cynthia Drews award-winning debut novel, City of Slaughter, chronicled young Carsie Akselrods flight from the Russian shtetl and her struggle to survive and rise above the living conditions of New Yorks garment district in the early twentieth century.
Now, in Red Mansions, Carsies story continues, following her life and times through the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. After her first husband, Louis Levy, was presumed killed in World War I, Carsie, married Chat Nussbaum, a lawyer from Chicago. Now, after six years of hiding in France, Louis, a sexist loser, shows up on Carsies doorstep, very much alive, expecting Carsie and their two daughters to welcome him back into the family. Instead, the Nussbaums turn him away and he begins a war of nerves with them that spans twenty years, while he fails at one foolish and often illegal business venture after another.
Carsie has her own share of problemsa bedridden husband, a malicious and possessive mother-in-law, two willful teenage daughters, fragile nerves, and an addiction to lithium bromide tonics, not to mention a randy poet who takes up space in their apartment. Carsie struggles to hold onto her family, her business in Hells Kitchen, her way of life, and her sanity. What she has going for her is a tenacity forged in her youth in the lower East Side, where she learned that survival was all that mattered.
Red Mansions showcases New Yorks elite society, as well as its criminals, con artists, prostitutes, and gamblers. The story is further enriched by important themes and social issuesthe underprivileged Irish, homeless children, the orphan trains, the tenements of Hells Kitchen, social snobbery, womens rights in the workplace, and womens issues of reproductive freedom.
This is a novel about overcoming adversity. It is also a gripping and entertaining story, with a heroine to cheer for.
Cynthia Drew teaches Creative Writing at UNC-Ashevilles Reuter Center. Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals and her debut novel, City of Slaughter, recently won the Forward National Literature Award Silver medallion for Historical Fiction.
by Cynthia Drew
312 pages, paperback, $15.95
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