First came the sin. Then the lies.
He was handsome, charming, irresistable, and an eighteen-year-old lady-killer, her uncle Cliff's stepson, Ted. But in one terrible night he would shatter the life of fourteen-year-old Charlotte Dawes and nearly destroy her family. Years afterward, Charlotte would remember that night with fear and loathing, with pain that could be banished only by her work as a gifted architect, building a new world for others as she conceals her own.
For Charlotte's family, prime employers in New England mill town, what happened to Charlotte was the beginning of the end. Her father is left shattered by his daughter's pain. Her troubled mother is unable to cope. And her distinguished family has fallen from grace, plunged into debt. The only rock that sustains them in their darkest hours is a woman whose own guilty secret has given her the power to ruin--or resurrect--the family to whom she owes her life.
Belva Plain's searing novel cuts to the heart of a family ravaged by secrecy. But it is ultimately a story of redemption, the kind that grows when one person dares to tell the truth.
The characters in this labyrinthine 14th novel from perennial bestseller Plain (Promises) live undercover lives, each hiding a secret from the others. At the center of this web of reticence, which stretches from the mid-1980s to the present, stands Charlotte Dawes. The product of a doomed marriage between flighty Italian-born Elena and decent New England textile heir Bill, teenaged Charlotte endures first her parents' separation, then rape at the hands of a stepcousin, Ted. The evil act is even more destructive because Ted, the one villain in a noble cast, is the son of Charlotte's Aunt Claudia, a widow newly married to her father's brother, and a surrogate mother to Charlotte. Claudia has her own secret, linking the death of her first husband in Chicago and the troubles besetting the Dawes brothers at their failing mill. Although Charlotte becomes a promising architect, she remains traumatized, and it's only when she meets Roger Heywood, a builder, that she can accept physical love. The couple must survive the revelation of another shocking secret, and even a threat from Mother Nature, before their rosy future looms. Plain handles her characters' complex troubles (emotional and financial) with sympathy--though sometimes with awkward shifts in point of view. She offers us one epiphany after another as the veil of secrecy is gradually lifted, and she allows Charlotte's story an affectingly muted denouement. Literary Guild main selection; author tour.