Not Our Kind
With echoes of Rules of Civility and The Boston Girl, a compelling and thought-provoking novel set in postwar New York City, about two women—one Jewish, one a WASP—and the wholly unexpected consequences of their meeting.
One rainy morning in June, two years after the end of World War II, a minor traffic accident brings together Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy. Their encounter seems fated: Eleanor, a teacher and recent Vassar graduate, needs a job. Patricia’s difficult thirteen-year-old daughter Margaux, recovering from polio, needs a private tutor.
Though she feels out of place in the Bellamys’ rarefied and elegant Park Avenue milieu, Eleanor forms an instant bond with Margaux. Soon the idealistic young woman is filling the bright young girl’s mind with Shakespeare and Latin. Though her mother, a hat maker with a little shop on Second Avenue, disapproves, Eleanor takes pride in her work, even if she must use the name "Moss" to enter the Bellamys’ restricted doorman building each morning, and feels that Patricia’s husband, Wynn, may have a problem with her being Jewish.
Invited to keep Margaux company at the Bellamys’ country home in a small town in Connecticut, Eleanor meets Patricia’s unreliable, bohemian brother, Tom, recently returned from Europe. The spark between Eleanor and Tom is instant and intense. Flushed with new romance and increasingly attached to her young pupil, Eleanor begins to feel more comfortable with Patricia and much of the world she inhabits. As the summer wears on, the two women’s friendship grows—until one hot summer evening, a line is crossed, and both Eleanor and Patricia will have to make important decisions—choices that will reverberate through their lives.
Gripping and vividly told, Not Our Kind illuminates the lives of two women on the cusp of change—and asks how much our pasts can and should define our futures.
The pseudonymous Zeldis masterfully transports readers to 1947 New York to depict the relationships that develop between a young Jewish woman and a Protestant family. Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy run into each other or rather, their cabs collide on Park Avenue, and the elegant Patricia invites the job-seeking Eleanor to her high-end apartment to help the young woman recover from the jolt. Patricia's 13-year-old daughter, Margaux, an angry polio survivor who walks with the aid of a stick, is immediately drawn to Eleanor's intelligent, forthright demeanor, and Eleanor finds young Margaux equally appealing. Patricia is also intrigued by Eleanor, even though she has "never entertained a Jew in her apartment before." Eleanor, a Vassar grad, is hired to tutor Margaux in the Bellamy home, but Patricia's bigoted husband, Wynn, is resistant to the idea. Eleanor accompanies the family on a summer retreat in Connecticut to continue working with Margaux, and passions begin to rise between Eleanor and Tom, Patricia's brother, who joins the family in their summer home after a stint in France. Lively descriptions of 1940s clothing and culture complement the realistic characters. This is a vivid, winning novel.