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"Hidden is a rich, massive tale of three generations of two families the twain of which scarcely ever meet. But these did, and the meeting was both a collision and an enrichment. Taken together, these engrossing characters personify a volatile decade in the life of New York. Perhaps best of all, the city itself is a living, complex, and dynamic character in its own right. What a fine first effort for Victoria Lustbader."
--Anne Rivers Siddons,
New York Times bestselling author
"It is a great achievement when a novelist manages to make the personal seem political, and the political seem personal. Victoria Lustbader achieves just this in her epic first novel, Hidden. With characters ranging from robber barons to spiritualists, and settings as seemingly disparate as the trenches of World War I and the concrete canyons of Manhattan, Hidden explores the impact that a world in flux has upon its citizenry. Deftly, masterfully, and with the utmost compassion, Lustbader writes of families - and a world - suffering the pangs of growth while searching for grace. Hidden is a truly spirited debut."
author of The Book of Shadows
and The Book of Spirits
"Victoria Lustbader is great at casting. Her first novel has a whole roster of convincing characters: an aging mogul, a weak heir, a brilliant outsider, a dying child, a cold mother and an abused wife. We've met most of them often, but she brings them skillfully to life in Hidden. A veteran fiction editor with an extensive background in publishing, married to novelist Eric Van Lustbader of The Ninja fame, Lustbader more than lives up to her pedigree. She has written a novel that is hefty but always fun to read. Lustbader's portraits of life in the sweatshop society are full of the voices, smells and broken spirits of immigrants searching in vain for the prosperous new lives they thought America would offer. There is a touch of stereotype in the portraits of the women: Jed's mother is the rigid, dominating matron; his sister, Lucy, is the rebel who flouts all the rules, goes to college and works in Margaret Sanger's clinic offering birth control to ever-expanding families like the Warshinskys; Jed himself acquires a saintly and patient wife. But any good story needs setbacks as well as saints: Monty, a snarky villain, stages a deadly riding accident; the Spanish flu carries off a granddaughter; the Triangle Fire inflicts horrors downtown; and, finally, one of our heroes meets a tragic end. Lustbader's skill in making us genuinely interested in these characters does make her tendency to bump them off when they get in the way of the plot sometimes aggravating. Both families seem very prone to fatal illness and accident, but then those were more fragile times. In the end, Hidden delivers robustly on its promise to take readers into another era. Lustbader's characters eat, drink, read, socialize and suffer in ways that feel authentic. In this remarkable and accomplished debut, she takes us as near as most of us would care to get to the conditions and backbreaking toil of the immigrant garment workers on the Lower East Side and also lets us sit at the candlelit dining tables of the rich and famous."
--The Washington Post Book World
"Debut novelist Lustbader serves up a luscious historical melodrama as she interweaves the stories of two very different families from the waning days of the Great War through the glittering Roaring Twenties. While Jed and David embark upon a successful business partnership, each struggles with his own inner demons. Tortured by his growing attraction to David, Jed must come to terms with his latent homosexuality. Meanwhile, David falls for Jed's independent, free-spirited sister but is unable to commit himself emotionally until he acknowledges his Jewish heritage and reconciles with his estranged family. This authentically detailed period page-turner is chock-full of passion, romance, and hidden desires."
"Readers who enjoy epic, historical family sagas will not be disappointed with Lustbader's debut, which spans three generations and uses significant historical events as background. Two completely different New York families who would never have become intertwined except for fate are introduced during the changing times of World War I and the Roaring Twenties. The fully dimensional and deftly drawn characters-especially Jed's grandfather, Joseph, and mother, Sally-keep the reader entranced with their conniving and duplicity. This hard-to-put-down, historically accurate tale is filled with conversations that are both realistic and entertaining. Recommended for all collections."
"The story of these two families comes to life as the marriages, deaths, births, desires and ambitions of the different characters jump off the page and into readers' imaginations. Lustbader has revisited the family-saga format that was so popular in the '80s. She reminds you of why we loved those stories, and her characters are vibrant and full-bodied: the factory hand, the Henry Street Settlement worker, the financier, the artist, the flapper, the religious conservative. This is a gripping story that's lots of fun."
--Romantic Times BookClub Magazine (4 ½ stars)
"For many years, Victoria Lustbader was a fiction editor at Harper & Row. With that background, she knows what appeals to avid readers of fiction. Her debut novel has all of the plot twists needed to keep the reader enthralled. There are several plot twists interwoven in the novel. David and Jed both have secrets that they keep hidden. David hides his heritage and denies his family living in the tenements of New York. Jed marries the girl chosen for him by his mother. He valiantly tries to succeed in the family business while denying his talent as an artist. He hides an even darker secret, his love and passion for David. Lustbader uses the chaotic Roaring '20s as a backdrop for her characters. This era was a time of monumental change. These major shifts in society are a backdrop which frames the story of David and Jed and their families. Hidden is full of action, romance, sadness and trauma. Lustbader provides a glimpse of another era and how people lived and loved. We are introduced to two extremes of society, poor immigrants struggling to make a living in the garment district of New York City and the rich living and working in an era of easy money and loose morals. Once again, blending history and fiction gives the reader a good story that holds interest from beginning to end."
--The Free Lance-Star
"The novel is titled Hidden for a very good reason: everyone is hiding something. The storyline ebbs and flows along with the tragedies and triumphs that befall the two families. Much of the book deals with the contrast of lifestyles these clans experience. The reader is given a behind-the-scenes look at working in a sweatshop-which the Warshinsky family is very familiar with-and summering in a mansion on Oyster Bay with the Gates family and their guests. As secrets are revealed and then dealt with, the book heads toward its powerful conclusion. Debut novelist Victoria Lustbader has created a huge cast of believable characters, bringing their lives vividly to life in this very interesting book. Hidden would lend itself quite easily to becoming a mini-series or made-for-television movie."
"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."
"Lustbader's debut novel, set in roaring '20s New York, updates the Rich Man, Poor Man plot with a Brokeback Mountain twist. David Warshinsky, 18, leaves his Jewish family's Lower East Side tenement to join the army, where he meets Jed Gates, grandson of a Manhattan business mogul. When the two friends return from WWI, David cuts off family ties, abandons his religion and changes his name to Shaw, while Jed refuses to acknowledge that he is in love with David. Instead, Jed dutifully marries, fathers a son and goes to work in the family business, keeping David, a financial and marketing genius bent on getting ahead, by his side. Meanwhile, David's sister Sarah, a seamstress still mourning their sister Rose (lost in the Triangle Factory fire) stealthily keeps track of David, and Jed's sister Lucy, a Henry Street Settlement nurse, knows all about David's desires. Lustbader, long time fiction editor at Harper & Row and Putnam, and the spouse of novelist Eric, skillfully envisions history in the making during a time of economic and social change. She falls prey to a few family saga clichés (fraternal feuds, maternal manipulation), but is terrific in depicting her characters' work lives. She transcends the miniseries story line to reveal a promising talent in historical fiction."