Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin by Gabrielle Zevin - Read Online

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Editor’s Note

“Beach reads…”This killer book about five women and the sex scandal that brings them all together is a perfect page-turner for the beach.
Scribd Editor

Summary

“SLY, EXHILARATING . . . HILARIOUS.”
People (Book of the Week)

 
This is the story of five women . . .
 
Meet Rachel Grossman.
She’ll stop at nothing to protect her daughter, Aviva, even if it ends up costing her everything.
 
Meet Jane Young.
She’s disrupting a quiet life with her daughter, Ruby, to seek political office for the first time.
 
Meet Ruby Young.
She thinks her mom has a secret. She’s right.
 
Meet Embeth Levin.
She’s made a career of cleaning up her congressman husband’s messes. 
 
Meet Aviva Grossman.
The Internet won’t let her or anyone else forget her past transgressions. 
 
This is the story of five women . . .
. . . and the sex scandal that binds them together. 
 
From Gabrielle Zevin, the bestselling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, comes another story with unforgettable characters that is particularly suited to the times we live in now . . .
 
Published: Workman eBooks on
ISBN: 9781616207724
List price: $15.95
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Also by GABRIELLE ZEVIN

BOOKS FOR ADULTS

Margarettown

The Hole We’re In

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Elsewhere

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

All These Things I’ve Done

Because It Is My Blood

In the Age of Love and Chocolate

Young Jane Young

a novel

Gabrielle Zevin

ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL 2018

I know

Not these my hands

And yet I think there was

A woman like me once had hands

Like these.

—ADELAIDE CRAPSEY, AMAZE

Contents

PART I

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

PART II

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

PART III

PART IV

PART V

Author’s Note

Reader’s Guide

About the Author

About Algonquin

I

Bubbe Meise

Rachel

ONE

My dear friend Roz Horowitz met her new husband online dating, and Roz is three years older and fifty pounds heavier than I am, and people have said that she is generally not as well preserved, and so I thought I would try it even though I avoid going online too much. Roz’s last husband died of colon cancer, and she deserves her happiness. Not that this new husband is anything special—his name is Tony and he used to be in the auto glass business in New Jersey. But Roz fixed him up and took him shopping for shirts at Bloomingdale’s, and now they’re taking all these classes at the JCC together—Conversational Spanish and Ballroom Dancing and Massage for Lovers and Creative Soap and Candle Making. I don’t particularly want a husband. They’re a lot of work, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone either, and it would be nice to have someone to go to classes with is what I’m saying. I thought online dating was for younger people, but Roz says it’s not. Even if it is, she says, Rachel, you’re younger now than you’ll ever be.

So I ask Roz if she has any advice and she says don’t put a picture that makes you look younger than you are. Everyone on the Internet lies, but ironically, the worst thing to do on the Internet is lie. And I say, Roz, my love, how exactly is that different from life?

The first man I meet is named Harold, and as a joke, I ask him if he always had that name because it seems like an old man name to me. But Harold doesn’t get the joke, and he gets huffy and says, "Haven’t you ever heard of Harold and the Purple Crayon? Harold is a child, Rachel." Anyway, this date goes nowhere.

The second man I meet is Andrew, and he has dirty fingernails so I can’t notice if he is nice or not. I can’t even eat my brown sugar and butter crêpes because, oy gevalt, I’m so distracted by these fingernails. I mean, what was he doing before he came on this date? Competitive gardening? Burying the last woman he dated? He says, Rachel Shapiro, you eat like a bird! I think about packing up the crêpes, but what’s the point? Crêpes don’t keep. Reheat them, and they end up eggy and rubbery, and even if you force them down, it’s a tragedy because you’re thinking of the crêpes they might have been and all that wasted potential.

Andrew calls me a few weeks later to ask me if I want to go on another date, and I very quickly say, No thank you. And he asks why. And I don’t want to tell him the thing about the dirty fingernails because it seems petty and maybe it is. My ex-husband was meticulous about his fingernails, and he still turned out to be a piece of garbage. While I’m thinking of what to say, he says, Well, I guess I have my answer. Don’t bother making up some lie.

And I say, Honestly, I think we lack chemistry, and at our ages—I’m sixty-four—it doesn’t make sense to waste time.

And he says, So you know, your picture makes you look ten years younger than you are. A parting blow.

I know this is the insult of the insulted, but I show Roz the picture anyway, just in case. I had thought of it as recent, but upon closer consideration, I determine it’s from the end of the second Bush administration. Roz says that I do look younger in it, but in a good way, not so much that it’s ridiculous. She says if I pick the right restaurant, with the right lighting, I’ll look exactly the same age as the photo. And I say that’s starting to sound like Blanche DuBois putting scarves on the lamps. Roz takes a new picture of me with her phone on my balcony, and that’s that.

The third man I meet is Louis, and he has very nice glasses with titanium arms. I like him immediately even though the first thing he says is, Wow, you’re prettier than your picture, which leaves me wondering if I’ve swung too much in the other direction with this whole picture foolishness. He’s a professor of Jewish-American literature at the University of Miami, and he tells me he ran marathons until his hip started bothering him and now he runs half marathons. He asks me if I work out, and I tell him yes, I teach Pilates for Seniors, as a matter of fact—maybe I could help with his flexors? He says, I bet you could, or something like that. Then, to establish we aren’t bimbos, we schmooze about books. I say I love Philip Roth, even though that’s probably a cliché for a woman of my background and my age. And he says, no, Philip Roth is wonderful. He once gave a public lecture about Philip Roth’s books and Philip Roth came to it and sat in the first row! Philip Roth sat through the whole thing, nodded occasionally, crossed and uncrossed and recrossed his long legs, and when it was over, he left without saying a word.

Did he like it? I ask. Was he offended?

Louis says he’ll never know and it’ll always be one of the great mysteries of his life.

I say, Philip Roth has long legs?

He says, Not as long as mine, Rach.

It’s a nice thing to flirt.

And then he asks me if I have any children. And I say, I have a daughter, Aviva. And he says, Aviva, that means springtime or innocence in Hebrew, what a beautiful name. And I say, I know, that’s why my ex-husband and I chose it. And he says, I haven’t known many Avivas, it’s not a very common name, just that girl who got into trouble with Congressman Levin. Do you remember that whole mishegoss?

Um, I say.

He says, It was a blight on South Florida, a blight on Jews, a blight on politicians if that’s even possible, a blight on civilization in general.

He says, Can you honestly not remember it? It was on the news every day here in 2001, until September eleventh happened and everyone forgot about her.

He says, I wish I could remember her last name. You really don’t remember her? Well, Rach, she was like Monica Lewinsky. The girl knew he was married and she seduced him. I guess she was drawn to the power or the limelight. Or maybe she was insecure. She was slutty and a bit zaftig—one of those such-a-pretty-face types—so it probably raised her self-esteem to attract a man like Levin. I can’t feel much sympathy for people like that. What the heck was her last name?

He says, "It’s a real shame. Levin’s been a solid congressman. He might have been the first Jewish president if not for that farkakte girl."

He says, You know who I feel sorry for? Her parents.

He says, I wonder whatever happened to that girl. I mean, who would ever hire her? Who would marry her?

He says, Grossman! Aviva Grossman! That’s it!

And I say, "That’s it."

I excuse myself to go to the ladies’ room, and when I come back, I tell the waiter to pack up the rest of my paella, which is very good and way too much for one person. Some restaurants skimp on the saffron, but not La Gamba. You can’t microwave paella but it will reheat on the stovetop very nicely. I say let’s go halfsies on the check, and Louis says he was planning to pay. But I insist. I only let a man pay for me if I’m planning to see him again. Roz says this is either feminism or the opposite of feminism, but I think it’s plain manners.

We walk to the parking lot, and he says, Did something happen back there? Did I say something wrong? I thought it was going very well until suddenly it wasn’t.

I say, I just don’t like you, and I get in my car.

TWO

I live in a three-bedroom condo on the beach. I can hear the ocean and everything’s the way I like it, which is the best thing about living alone. Even when you’re married to a doctor who’s gone most of the time, he’ll still feel like he should weigh in on the décor. And his opinions are, I think I’d prefer a bed that was more masculine and Definitely blackout curtains, you know my schedule and Sure it’s pretty, but won’t it get dirty? But now my couch is white, my curtains are white, my duvet is white, my countertops are white, my clothes are white, everything is white, and no, it doesn’t get dirty, I’m very careful. I bought near the bottom of the market—I have always been lucky in real estate, if nothing else—and the condo is worth three times what I paid for it. I could sell it and make a killing, but honestly, where would I go? You tell me where I would go!

Back when I was married and back when Aviva was young, we lived across town in a Tuscan-style minimansion in Forestgreen Country Club, which is a gated community. Now that I no longer live there, I can admit that the gates always troubled me—we lived in Boca Raton; who were we keeping out? People were always getting robbed in Forestgreen anyway. The gates seemed to attract thieves. Put up gates, people will think there’s something worth protecting. But Forestgreen’s where I met Roz, who has been my best friend through some times, let me tell you. And that’s where we met the Levins. The Levins moved in when Aviva was a freshman in high school, fourteen.

When we first knew him, Aaron Levin was a lowly state senator. His wife, Embeth, was the one who made the money—she worked as in-house counsel for a conglomerate of South Florida hospitals. Roz’s nickname for Aaron Levin was Jewish Superman or Jewperman. And honest to God, that’s what he looked like. He was six feet two inches tall in New Balances, with black curly hair and blue-green eyes and a big, kind, dopey smile. The man could wear a dress shirt. He’d gone to Annapolis and served in the navy, and he had the shoulders to show for it. He was a few years younger than Roz and me, but he was not so young that Roz didn’t like to joke that one of us should try to sleep with him.

The wife, Embeth, always looked unhappy. She was thin from the waist up but frumpy on the bottom—thick calves and hips, puffy knees. How the woman must have suffered to keep her brown curly hair in that straight blond bob. Roz used to say, "In this humidity, oy vey iz mir, maintaining a hairstyle like that is nothing short of madness."

For the record, I tried to make friends with Embeth, but she wasn’t interested. (It wasn’t just me, because Roz also tried.) Mike and I had them over for dinner twice. The first time, I made beef brisket, which takes all day. Even with the AC blasting, I was shvitzing on my Donna Karan open-shouldered dress. The second time, I made maple-glazed salmon. No big deal. Marinate for fifteen minutes, thirty in the oven, and done. Embeth never reciprocated. I can take a hint. Then when Aviva was a junior in high school, Aaron Levin ran for Congress, and they moved to Miami, and I thought I’d never see or hear from them again. You have a lot of neighbors in a lifetime and only a few of them turn out to be Roz Horowitzes.

But it’s not Roz I’ve been brooding about all day, it’s the Levins, and I’m still thinking about them when the phone rings. It’s the history teacher from the public school, wanting to know if I’m Esther Shapiro’s daughter. She has been trying to reach Mom to see if she will be able to be a speaker for Survivor Day at the high school, and Mom’s not been answering her texts or her phone. I explain to her that Mom had a fairly devastating stroke about six months ago. So, no, Esther Shapiro will not be able to attend Survivor Day. They will have to find other survivors this year.

The history teacher starts to cry—annoying, indulgent—and says it is harder and harder to find enough survivors, even here in Boca Raton, which is, roughly, 92 percent Jewish, the most Jewish place on earth aside from Israel itself. Twenty years ago, when she first started doing Survivor Day, it was easy, she says, but now, who’s left? Maybe you survive cancer, maybe you survive the Holocaust, but life’ll get you every time.

That afternoon, I visit Mom at the nursing home, which smells like a combination of a school cafeteria and death. Mom’s hand is limp and her face has collapsed on the left side. I mean, why mince words? She looks strokey.

I tell her that the indulgent schoolteacher was asking about her, and Mom tries to say something but it comes out as vowels and no consonants and maybe I’m a bad daughter, but I don’t understand. I tell her that I almost had a very good date until the man, out of the blue, insulted Aviva. And Mom makes a face that is inscrutable. And I say, I miss Aviva. I only say this because I know Mom can’t say anything back.

As I’m leaving the nursing home, Mom’s younger sister, Mimmy, arrives. Mimmy is the happiest person I’ve ever known, but she isn’t always trustworthy. Maybe this is unfair. Maybe it isn’t that Mimmy isn’t trustworthy but that I don’t trust happy people or happiness in general. Mimmy wraps her big, flappy wings around me. (When we were kids, my brother and I called arms like these Hadassah arms.) Mimmy says that Mom has been asking about Aviva.

How precisely was she doing that, Mimmy? I ask. Mom can’t say anything.

She said her name. She said UH-VEE-VUH, Mimmy insists.

Three whole syllables? I highly doubt that. Besides which, everything Mom says sounds like ‘Aviva.’

Mimmy says she doesn’t want to argue with me, because we need to start making plans for Mom’s eighty-fifth birthday party. Mimmy isn’t sure if we should have the party here, at the home that is not her home, or if Mom will be well enough to travel. Obviously, Mimmy thinks it would be better to have the party somewhere else, somewhere more scenic—the Boca Raton Museum of Art or that nice brunch place in Mizner Park or my apartment. Your apartment is gorgeous, Mimmy says.

I say, Aunt Mimmy, do you think Mom would even want a party?

Mimmy says, There is no one on earth who loves parties more than your mother.

I wonder if Mimmy and I are speaking of the same woman. Once, I asked my mother if she and Daddy had been happy. He was a good provider. He was good to you and your brother. Happy? my mother said. What’s that? This is to say, I am reminded for the millionth time that it is a very different thing to be a woman’s sister than it is to be her daughter.

I say, Mimmy, is it really the right time for a party?

Mimmy looks at me as if I am the most pitiable person she has ever met. Rachel Shapiro, she says, it’s always the right time for a party.

THREE

Sometime before my marriage ended, Mike and I drove down to the University of Miami to have dinner with Aviva, who said she had an announcement for us. At long last and a few semesters behind schedule, she had decided on a major: Spanish literature and political science.

Mike said that sounded impressive, but he was always such a softie where Aviva was concerned. I was the one who had to ask her what she was planning to do with a degree like that, which sounded like a whole lotta nada. I had visions of my daughter living in her childhood room forever.

Aviva said, I’m going into politics. The Spanish literature, she explained, was because she noticed that everyone who won elections in our part of the country spoke Spanish fluently. The political science, she felt, was obvious.

Politics is a dirty business, Mike said.

I know, Daddy, Aviva said, kissing him on the cheek. Then she asked Mike if he was still in contact with Congressman Levin. Though it had been a while since we had lived next door to the Levins, Mike had performed heart surgery on the congressman’s mother about a year earlier. Aviva hoped this connection would help her to land an entry level job or an internship.

Mike said he would give the congressman a call the next day, which he did. Where Aviva was concerned, Mike was more than reliable. She was daddy’s little girl. I find the term Jewish-American princess offensive, but if the tiara fits. At any rate, Mike talked to Levin and Levin gave Mike the name of someone in his office, and Aviva went to work for the congressman.

In those days, I was vice principal at the Boca Raton Jewish Academy, which serves students from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I had held this position for the last ten years, and one of the reasons I had not driven down to Miami to see Aviva much that fall was because my boss, Principal Fischer, had been caught shtupping a senior girl. The girl was eighteen years old, but still . . . A grown man and an educator should know how to keep his schlong in his pants. Eli Fischer was foolishly determined to keep his job and wanted me to advocate on his behalf with our board. "You know me, Fischer said. Please, Rachel."

I did know him, which is why I told the board that Fischer should be fired immediately. While they searched for a replacement, I became the principal of BRJA, the first woman ever to hold that post, for what such distinctions are worth.

When Fischer returned to pack up his desk, I brought him a black-and-white cookie. It was a peace offering but also an excuse to see how the packing was going. I wanted him out of what was to become my office. He opened the white wax paper bag, and he flung the black-and-white cookie at my head, like a Frisbee. Judas! he yelled. I dodged just in time. The cookie was from King’s—six inches in diameter with an almost petit-four-like consistency. What a stupid man.

By the time I saw Aviva at Thanksgiving, she had lost some weight, but she was otherwise rosy and happy, so all I could think was that the employment was doing her good. Maybe Aviva has found her calling, I thought. Maybe politics is her calling? I entertained a fantasy of myself at her inauguration for some office, dabbing my eyes with a red, white, and blue silk Hermès handkerchief. Aviva was always a girl with smarts and energy, but it often went in many directions, like sun rays or a bag of marbles dropped on the floor—maybe this is just youth, though? I asked her, So you like working with the congressman?

Aviva laughed. I don’t work with him directly, not really.

What do you do, then?

It’s boring, she said.

Not to me! Your first real job!

I don’t get paid, she said. So it’s not a real job.

Still, this is exciting stuff, I said. Tell me, my daughter. What do you do?

I get the bagels, she said.

Okay, what else?

They send me to Kinko’s.

"But what are you learning?" I said.

How to photocopy double-sided, she said. How to make coffee.

Aviva, come on, give me one good story to take back to Roz.

I didn’t take this job so you’d have stories for Roz Horowitz.

Something about the congressman.

Mom, she said impatiently. There’s nothing to tell. The congressman’s in D.C. I mainly work with the campaign staff. Everything’s raising money and everyone hates raising money, but they believe in what they’re doing and they believe in the congressman, and I guess that makes it all right.

So you like it?

She took a deep breath. Mommy, she said, I’m in love.

For a second, I thought we were still talking about the job, that she was saying she was in love with politics. I realized that we weren’t.

It’s early, she said. But I think I love him. I do.

Who is he? I asked.

She shook her head. He’s handsome. He’s Jewish. I don’t want to say too much.

Did you meet him at school?

I don’t want to say too much.

Okay, I said. Well, tell me one thing. Does he love you, too?

Aviva flushed prettily, like when she was a baby and had a fever. Maybe.

She wasn’t saying something. It is probably obvious what she wasn’t saying, but it didn’t occur to me. She was only twenty years old, just a kid, a good girl. I didn’t believe that my Aviva could get herself mixed