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Avoidance

by Michael Lowenthal

AVOIDANCE Try to imagine not even knowing how to fall, because a hand was always, always there to catch you. How does someone, excluded from the only community he or she has ever known, go on living? Harvard student Jeremy Stull lives with a devout Amish family to observe their faith and their strict shunning of those who breach it. He befriends Beulah -- a banished Amish woman - but comes no closer to understanding her predicament than he is to fathoming his own bitter exile. For Jeremy, community means Ironwood, a summer camp in the Vermont woods. First as a camper, then as assistant director, Jeremy has found in Ironwood's rituals a sturdy foundation for his life. But when he is blindsided by the seductive charm of Max, a fourteen-year-old boy from Manhattan, all arms and legs and attitude, Jeremy must confront both his own confusing desires and a legacy of disturbing secrets at his beloved Ironwood. In this powerful and daring novel, Lowenthal ingeniously explores an age-old dilemma: individual desire versus the good of the group.

Charity Girl

by Michael Lowenthal

During World War I, seventeen-year-old Frieda Mintz secures a job at a Boston department store and strikes out on her own, escaping her repressive Jewish mother and marriage to a wealthy widower twice her age. Determined to find love on her own terms, she is intoxicated by her newfound freedom and the patriotic fervor of the day. That is, until a soldier reports her as his last sexual contact, sweeping her up in the government's wartime crusade against venereal disease. Quarantined in a detention center, Frieda finds in the Home's confines a group of brash, unforgettable women who help her see the way to a new kind of independence.Charity Girl is based on a little-known chapter in American history that saw fifteen thousand women across the nation incarcerated. Like When the Emperor Was Divine, Lowenthal's poignant, provocative novel will leave readers moved - and astonished by the shameful facts that inspired it.

The Paternity Test

by Michael Lowenthal

"Having a baby to save a marriage--it's the oldest of cliches. But what if the marriage at risk is a gay one, and having a baby involves a surrogate mother? Pat Faunce is a faltering romantic, a former poetry major who now writes textbooks. A decade into his relationship with Stu, an airline pilot from a fraught Jewish family, he fears he's losing Stu to other men--and losing himself in their "no rules" arrangement. Yearning for a baby and a deeper commitment, he pressures Stu to move from Manhattan to Cape Cod, to the cottage where Pat spent boyhood summers. As they struggle to adjust to their new life, they enlist a surrogate: Debora, a charismatic Brazilian immigrant, married to Danny, an American home rebuilder. Gradually, Pat and Debora bond, drawn together by the logistics of getting pregnant and away from their spouses. Pat gets caught between loyalties--to Stu and his family, to Debora, to his own potent desires--and wonders: is he fit to be a father? In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes passionately about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal, and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have. The Paternity Test is a provocative look at the new "family values. "--Publisher's description.

The Same Embrace

by Michael Lowenthal

The endless conflict between sameness and difference is at the heart of Michael Lowenthal's novel The Same Embrace, in which identical twins Jacob and Jonathan battle themselves and one another to become individuals even as they are inextricably linked through genes, family, and history. The conflict of brother against brother, biblical in its resonance yet filled with contemporary image and idiom, is also the grounding that allows Lowenthal to write about his main concern: how humans must create themselves as individuals while remaining part of a larger social fabric. Just as Jacob and Jonathan wrestle with one another over questions of sexuality and religion, The Same Embrace embodies two distinct and not usually conflated genres: the novel of gay identity and the Jewish family novel. Like the brothers' move towards reconciliation, one of the novel's strengths--along with its understanding of the human heart--is its ability to join these themes into a unified, extremely satisfying entirety that both moves and enlightens us. The shadow of the Holocaust looms over this affecting first novel, a tale of identical twins who must come to terms with their peculiar bond and its limits. Jacob Rosenbaum, openly gay and mourning the recent death of his best friend, travels from Boston to Israel in order to persuade his brother Jonathan, newly and fervently orthodox, to leave the yeshiva where he is studying and return to the U.S. More than religious and sexual differences keep the brothers apart. Both need to overcome the legacy of their stern grandfather, who pitted them against each other when they were boys Jacob's struggle to reconcile with his brother is as much an account of a family history of estrangement and secrets as it is about the contradictions of being twins: two people, physically alike, so close they dream the same dreams, who simultaneously long to assert their individuality and return to their comforting singular identity.

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