A headstrong artist and mother separates from her husband to parent her two daughters alone in Zuckerman’s nuanced debut.
It’s 1932. Buxom, blossoming artist Lila Brandt leaves her abusive husband, Aaron, taking her two daughters with her. For the rest of Aaron’s life, the children see him mostly on Sundays. As Lila and her daughters, Estelle and Floss, struggle through economic hardships, the toll of a nomadic existence bears down on the sisters, whose mother has enough of a conscience to leave their father and follow her dream, but not enough sense to realistically face her money troubles. The family’s moves take them through a series of New York City neighborhoods, which Zuckerman describes with obvious knowledge and impressive subtlety. Particularly intriguing are historical details of the artists’ community, where Lila finds some of her subsequent romances. Lila is a compellingly and infuriatingly flawed character whose affairs confuse both her daughters and herself. She eventually meets the like-minded Julio Delgado, who is also an unemployed mural artist. After long discussions about a life of art, he entices her to leave her daughters to visit him in Mexico. When it becomes clear that Lila’s vacation has turned into abandonment, Estelle, still a college student, is forced to leave her studies to support and parent her younger sister. When her mother returns without warning after a two-year absence, Estelle must decide where the family stands.
Despite an unnecessary framing device, Sunday Hostages is an enjoyable tale of the often-tumultuous intersection of self-realization and familial responsibility.