A young Jewish teacher and a WASPy married woman find an unexpected connection in post–World War II New York.
Eleanor Moskowitz is used to experiencing anti-Semitism. On the job hunt after a disastrous romance caused her to leave her last teaching position, she’s advised to change her name to Eleanor Moss so as not to worry potential employers. But then, on the way to a job interview, her cab is hit. It isn’t a serious accident, but the other cab’s passenger, Patricia Bellamy, insists on taking Eleanor home with her so she can freshen up. It’s there that Eleanor meets Patricia’s daughter, Margaux, a polio survivor who recently scared off a tutor with her surly attitude. Margaux takes a liking to Eleanor and asks Patricia if she can be her tutor. Patricia, who rarely interacts with Jewish people, doesn’t know what her stodgy husband and her status-obsessed friends will think. Still, she hires Eleanor, and Margaux begins to flourish. Eleanor, who still lives with her mother above a hat shop and has never had much money, is sucked into the Bellamys’ world of glamour and privilege. But when Eleanor begins a romance with Patricia’s bohemian brother, Tom, things start to get complicated. Could Eleanor ever really be part of the Bellamys’ world, or is she just too different? Zeldis paints a vivid picture of two separate New Yorks in the 1940s—Eleanor’s shabby clothes and budget meals versus Patricia’s fancy dresses and staff-prepared dinners. Their twin journeys toward independence—Eleanor’s from her mother and Patricia’s from her husband—show that no matter how much money a woman had, she was still constrained by the misogyny and stifling gender roles of the time.
A compelling tale of friendship, class, prejudice, and love.