Thursday, April 25, 2013

There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron

The blurb:
Once upon a time...there was an old woman who lived in the Bronx.  Ninety-one-year-old Mina Yetner lives in the Bronx neighborhood of Higgs Point where small shotgun houses perch on waterfront with a view of marsh grass, birds, and in the distance, the Manhattan skyline.

Mina doesn't like to get into her neighbor's business but when Sandra Ferrante, a troubled woman with a drinking problem, is pulled from her home and taken by ambulance to the local hospital, Mina tries to find Sandra's daughter to convey her mother's message: "Don't let him in until I'm gone."

Arguably, There Was an Old Woman is a New York sort of mystery.  There's very little violence or gore. Instead, we are drawn in by Ephron's descriptions of Higgs Point as a neighborhood, the period finishings in Mina Yetner's home, the description of the young curator's job and her upcoming exhibit of the history of the Empire State Building.

Through the story of Mina Yetner, Ephron takes us to the Depression and what it was like for a young woman working her first job in New York City and in the iconic Empire State Building.  Mina's choice to work came at a time of freedom and employment for women and as we read Mina's story, we're drawn in, imagining this unique time.  

It struck me that in There Was an Old Woman, the main, pivotal characters, those that carry the action forward are women from the young art historian and curator to Mina, who in her youth moved to New York City to build a life and worked at the Empire State Building.

Not that the book lacks mystery. There is psychological suspense as we wonder whether the events that Mina describes are actually happening or if she's slowly deteriorating.    There is drama as well - families divided by alcoholism, greed, and disappointment. There's romance with the dashing lawyer who has stopped practicing law and has opted to run his family business, the corner store.

Ephron's writing is clear, I focused completely on the characters and story, drawn into the build up and development without noticing anything else.  I kept wondering what would happen next.  If you're looking for a fun read set in New York City, check out There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron.

ISBN-10: 0062117602 - Hardcover $26
Publisher: William Morrow (April 2, 2013), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Hallie Ephron made a splash writing suspense with Never Tell a Lie published by HarperCollins in 2009. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it “stunning” and a “deliciously creepy tale of obsession.” USA Today: “You can imagine Hitchcock curling up with this one.” It was nominated for multiple awards, including the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and was adapted for film as And Baby Will Fallfor the Lifetime Movie Network
Hallie’s new book is There Was an Old Woman (4/2013 from Wm Morrow). Set in the Bronx, it’s a story of trust and betrayal, deception and madness. In it, a young woman and a very old woman connect across generations in spite of, or perhaps because, they are not related.

1 comment: