The former editor, and wife of blockbuster author Eric Van Lustbader, tries her hand at fiction with a sprawling, character-packed, emotionally spiraling historical saga joining the fates of two families in post-WWI New York.
In the army, two young men from very different families forge a lifelong friendship. Jed Gates is a wealthy mama’s boy, scion of the Gates department store family; handsome, ambitious David Warshinsky is a poor Jewish kid from the Lower East Side. When he enlists, David severs ties to his family and girlfriend, aiming toward a future that’s different from his seamstress mother’s dreams for him. With a new surname, Shaw, he begins to work his way up in the department store, gaining the admiration of patriarch Joseph Gates and the love of Jed’s headstrong, social-activist sister Lucy. Meanwhile, Jed is directed to marry a suitable girl, Abby, by his icy, controlling mother. Jed has no interest in sleeping with women; in fact, he is in love with David but unable to recognize the truth or to act on it. Their marriage is a disaster for poor, spoiled Abby, though not before Henry is born. In turn, David marries featherbrained Cissy, but their union is also wrecked, in this case by David’s refusal to impregnate his wife or to reveal his Jewish heritage. The crisis of tertiary relatives intrudes: Zoe, Jed’s equestrian aunt, is locked in an abusive marriage to villainous, alcoholic Monty, who punishes the disapproving Gates family by blackmailing Jed after spotting him with a homosexual lover. Encouraged by David’s newly single status, Lucy finally declares her love, and together they mend the rupture with his sister Sarah and his Jewish past. However, the two friends’ suppression of their respective secrets ends in a terrible tragedy.
The hidden homosexuality proves an affecting premise, and the historical detail is well situated.