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Red Mansions    by Cynthia Drew order for
Red Mansions
by Cynthia Drew
Order:  USA  Can
Daniel & Daniel, 2014 (2014)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Booklist said of Cynthia Drew's City of Slaughter: 'Bitter truths, sweet moments, and the gamut of human emotions thread together in Drew's stark detailed debut.' Its sequel, Red Mansions, is in the don't miss this one category.

Milliner Carsie Levy marries Chat Nussbaum after she learns that her husband is presumed killed in World War I. Carsie, Chat and her two daughters, Sarit and Sophia, become a real family with Chat fulfilling the role of father with great compassion. They live in a red brick mansion on New York City's East 66th Street.

As we all are aware, the Great Depression hit and tumbled everyone's lives. The Nussbaums are no exception. Besides dealing with job loss, questionable politics and the riotous Roaring Twenties, the stigma of being Jewish becomes a bigger factor for them.

Carsie closes her milliner's shop, which had been the epitome of high fashion. This and another unexpected intrusion into her life is almost more than Carsie can bear. The family's story began in City of Slaughter. In Red Mansions, the characters are already well-established. They mingle with historical celebrities that make those personalities feel more human, rather than just names from history.

In this marvelous depiction of life in New York in those trying times, we learn of the corruption rampant in the City and the poverty that existed while the big cats thrived. Doesn't seem to have improved much over the years. But we see how the failure of government to protect those dependent on it really struck down people simply trying to make an honest living. The Nussbaums were no exception.

Red Mansions is a compelling story of a family that copes with internal dissension as well as that outside the home. It is a tale that melts the heart, but also proves once again the resiliency of the human spirit. I'd like to have had a few minutes with Chat's mother to set her straight. Again, don't miss this one.

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