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The First Desire

Nancy Reisman

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Description

When Sadie looks out her window and sees her bother standing on the front lawn she knows he can't bring good news. Fidgeting over coffee with sugar and cream he explains: Their sister is gone. Three days earlier Goldie left to go shopping and she has not returned. With Goldie's disappearance as the catalyst, The First Desire takes us deep into the life of the Cohen family and Buffalo, New York, from the Great Depression to the years immediately following World War II. Shifting perspectives from siblings Sadie, Jo, Goldie, and Irving we learn of the secrets they have managed to keep hidden--and of Lillian, the beautiful woman their father took as a lover while his wife was dying. In this astonishing novel Reisman brings to life the love, grief, and desires that ultimately bind one family together.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jul 19, 2004 – Reisman's first novel (after the prize-winning collection, House Fires) is mesmerizing, not because of the action of the plot, which is minimal, but because Reisman demonstrates a rare, poetic understanding of family dynamics. The catalyst for this narrative about the hidden dramas of a Jewish family living in Buffalo from the late 1920s to 1950 occurs offstage. Rebecca Cohen, wife of jewelry store owner Abe, has died, leaving five adult children. Goldie, the eldest, on whom the responsibility for caring for her siblings has fallen, suddenly disappears without a word. Her departure leaves Sadie Cohen Feldstein, the only married sister, to cope with her tyrannical father and difficult siblings, who live together in the family home. Celia is mentally unstable, prone to misbehavior in public. Jo is rude, moody and fiercely resentful of having to protect Celia. Handsome, spoiled Irving is a wastrel and compulsive gambler, too fond of cards, whiskey and women. Abe, the paterfamilias, escapes his family into the arms of Lillian Schumacher, a fallen woman. Goldie's disappearance is also an escape, though the family fears she is dead. Irving escapes his gambling debts by joining the army in 1940. The others yearn to flee their responsibilities, but the years roll by until another family crisis brings Goldie home. The echoing word in the narrative is loneliness, used to signify each character's inchoate longings for connection, understanding, "touching" (another signal word) and love. Reisman writes with beauty and precise imagery; she describes one character's personality as "carp under ice, nibbling ancient disappointments." This realism, subtly laced with tenderness and compassion, distinguishes a novel whose addictive embrace continues after the last page has been turned.
The First Desire
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Sep 14, 2004
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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