New York’s Grand Central Terminal is more than just an architectural masterpiece or historic landmark for aspiring artist Clara Darden and newly divorced mother Virginia Clay. It's a platform for new beginnings at a time when each woman needs one most.
Davis (The Address, 2017, etc.) has carved out a literary niche by giving readers a peek into the private lives of those who live and work in New York’s most intriguing buildings, such as the Barbizon Hotel and the Dakota. In her third novel, she lets us into the world of two women employed at Grand Central during different eras. Twenty-five-year-old Clara arrives in New York in 1927 with great talent and even more ambition. Though she enjoys teaching at the art school tucked away in the train station, her true desire is to illustrate covers for Vogue. As she chases her dream, Clara juggles the attention of two suitors vying for her affection. The love that blossoms most, though, is her passion for art. Soon her life is derailed by tragedy. The circumstances around Clara’s disappearance remain a mystery until 1974, when Virginia, the now-dilapidated Grand Central Terminal’s newest information-desk clerk, starts exploring the long boarded-up art school. Like the train station, Virginia has seen better days. Her own story as a breast cancer survivor who’s been dumped by her rich husband closely parallels that of Grand Central Terminal, which is in danger of being shuttered in the name of progress. Virginia’s Mata Hari spy work and her college-age daughter’s photography skills play a key role in saving the station—and themselves.
At times, the art-history lesson towers over the story, resulting in less tension and lower stakes than in Davis’ earlier novels. Still, with richly drawn characters living in two storied eras, there is much to be enchanted by.