Serendipity in the Stacks #55: Charity Girl

I was wandering around the stacks in my library when I found a book that I had read years ago and liked very much, Charity Girl by Michael Lowenthal.

It is historical fiction and would be a good choice for book groups interested in little known pieces of American history. Charity Girl is a heartbreaking, yet inspiring, story of love betrayed and courage discovered.

Frieda is just another working Jewish girl in New York City during World War I. She is a bundle wrapper at Jordan Marsh in ladies’ undergarments and very happy with her job and her life. She and her friend, Lou visit the weekly dances with soldiers and are popular dance partners. One evening Frieda meets a handsome young dough boy and impulsively spends the evening with him. Weeks later she is visited by a stern woman who accuses Frieda of giving the soldier a venereal disease.

Frieda is sent to a medical institution where she is quarantined with other “fallen women” who have passed diseases onto soldiers. She is a Charity Girl, accused of unpatriotic behavior, and must be rehabilitated before being let out into society again. The fellow inmates and one sympathetic social worker are the only support system Frieda has as she faces numerous indignities in the detention center.

This little known historical period and the brutally unfair treatment of teenage girls will pique interest among readers of American historical fiction. Readers will also rally around Frieda and her feisty, but not anachronistic, attitude toward the medical sciences and her own future.

Likeable and admirable characters dropped into a lively paced novel full of period detail with an excellent sense of time, place, and social tone, will provide much for readers to discuss.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

2 Comments on "Serendipity in the Stacks #55: Charity Girl"

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  1. rebeccavnuk@gmail.com' Rebecca says:

    YES. Loved this book, and it would make an excellent choice for discussion. Wonderful historical detail and interesting plot/characters.

  2. bonniebuyer@msn.com' Bonnie says:

    My book club read and discussed this book two years ago. It proved to be an excellent book group choice and we all learned from this little known subject in history.

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