What happens when the picture-perfect marriage dissolves? In her unsparing evocation of a family in crisis, Belva Plain goes to the heart of a marriage between a naïve young artist and her handsome physician husband. At first everything is idyllic. Then one terrible night she commits an act she will regret for the rest of her life. An act that gives her husband the ultimate weapon: blackmail. The price of his silence is uncontested custody of their two children.
When her own beautiful, angry mother wants to know why she won't fight for custody, she can give no answers. For she alone knows, or believes she knows, what really happened on that fateful night.
In a novel that is both provocative and heartbreaking, Belva Plain proves herself the writer who sets the standard for family stories, a novelist of incomparable depth and grace.
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About the Author
Before becoming a novelist, Belva Plain wrote short stories for many major magazines, but taking care of a husband and three children did not give her the time to concentrate on the novel she had always wanted to write. When she looked back and said she didn't have the time, she felt as though she had been making excuses. In retrospect, she said, "I didn't make the time." But, she reminded us, during the era that she was raising her family, women were supposed to concentrate only on their children. Today 30 million copies of her books are in print.
A Barnard College graduate who majored in history, Belva Plain enjoyed a wonderful marriage of more than 40 years to Irving Plain, an ophthalmologist. Widowed for more than 25 years, Ms. Plain continued to reside in New Jersey, where she and her husband had raised their family and which was still home to her nearby children and grandchildren until her death in October 2010.
Date of Birth:October 9, 1915
Date of Death:October 12, 2010
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:Short Hills, New Jersey
Education:B.A., Barnard College
Read an Excerpt
Solid in status, circled by wide lawns and lavish shrubbery, the house stood where the outer suburbs met the countryside and the road wound toward the Berkshire hills. The land rose in ripples. In the morning the rising sun washed the hilltops in hazy pink light; at day's end the afterglow, lingering above them, lay like a scarlet stripe between the dark land and a foaming gray sea of clouds.
On such an evening, Hyacinth put aside the sketches and charcoal on her desk to gaze with pleasure at the scene. Except for the faintest rustle of leaves in the warm September air, it was quite still. And at the open window, she too stood quite still, in awe of the evening.
A mood, one of those that in occasional self-mockery she called her "poetic moments," had overcome her. Yet the mood ought not to be mocked, especially now when she was so incredibly happy. So secure, contented, and loved--so incredibly happy!
Abruptly then, she heard voices. Her parents, following their custom, were sitting on the open porch below. She had never eavesdropped and was certainly not about to do so now. But she had heard her name.
"Hy is twenty-one," Dad said. "She's not a child anymore."
"Hyacinth is twenty-one going on twelve."
"You amaze me, Francine. Here's a girl, an A student, only one year out of college, and already interning in one of the finest museums in the country. And," he went on, in the proud, earnest tone that a father assumes when he is boasting about an only daughter, "she's an artist! She'll make a name for herself. Wait and see."
"I'm not talking about academics. I'm talking about emotions. Haven't you noticed how she walks around with a smile all the time? I wouldn't be surprised if she was already planning a wedding. Oh, I'd like to ship that fellow to Australia, or Tierra del Fuego, or anyplace."
Hy pulled the desk chair to the window and sat there dumbfounded.
"What have you really got against him, Francine? All right, so you haven't been enthusiastic about him, and that's your privilege, but why so vehement? Why?"
"He'll break her heart, Jim, that's why. Gerald's a chaser. I see it. I feel it in my bones. Right now he's struggling to get ahead, but once there, he'll drop her. I don't trust him. He'll chase after women, and women will chase after him. He's too gorgeous. He ought to be in Hollywood. Hyacinth's no match for that kind of business."
"For God's sake, your imagination is running away with you. He's certainly faithful enough. Three times every week, plus every weekend."
"I don't say he can't be sincere at the moment. It's possible, after a fashion. She certainly has qualities that you don't find everywhere you look. Deep intelligence. Taste. Dignity. And she so obviously adores him. That flatters a man."
"I still say you're making a mountain out of a molehill."
"Jim! I'm talking about humiliation. I'm talking about heartbreak. He's not for her. He's not!"
Hyacinth's heart hammered in her ears. Not for me? What do you know about him, or about me, either? You know nothing about my life.
"She's so good, Jim. A genuinely good human being."
"Yes, yes, that she is."
As clearly as if she had been sitting down there on the porch with them, Hyacinth saw their faces: her father's pale eyes, so much like her own, reflective, looking off into the distance; her mother's darting eyes, bright and blue, with the two vertical lines between them that appeared whenever she was alert or emphatic.
"I don't see it at all, Francine. He's agreeable, well mannered, smart, medical school, medical honorary society. Pretty desirable, if you ask me. And the fact is, I rather like him."
"Yes, he's likable enough. But I tell you again, he's too shrewd for her. She's a total innocent. What does she know about the world? Or about people? The only men she's gone out with are college boys and maybe a couple of artists she's met at her job. And not even many of them. Gerald's taken up practically all of this year."
The best year of my life. The year that's changed my life.
"She's a typical artist, a student, a loner, and always has been."
"A lot of people are artists and students and loners. A lot of remarkable people."
"Yes, and they are often the ones who get hurt the most."
"Well, if you feel this way, why don't you talk to her about it?"
"Talk to her? For all her sweetness, she can still be stubborn as a mule when she wants to be, can't she? Do I have to tell you? How long have we been asking her to stop smoking? And has she stopped? It's odd, too. She doesn't look like the type to go around with a cigarette in her hand."
Should she run downstairs now and confront them with her outrage? But she sat there, unable to move, and waited for more.
Dad spoke quietly. "You're getting yourself all worked up."
"What shall I do? Sit calmly watching a man get what he can out of my child?"
"What do you mean by 'get what he can'? Sex?"
"Who knows? But there are other things besides sex."
Dad persisted. "Such as?"
"Look around. What's bad about this house? Pretty comfortable here, isn't it? He noticed things, too, the few times he was here. He kept looking around. I saw him."
"Well, why wouldn't he be curious? It's only natural. He's lived poor all his life, and he's up to his ears in debt to the university. It's not like you to be so critical. It's not like you to be cynical." There was a sigh in Dad's voice. He hated argument.
"Not cynical. Realistic."
"Let's go inside. The mosquitoes are out."
But Francine was not finished. "Don't be misled by Hy's brains or her energy or her ambition. At heart, she's a bookworm. Give her a book or a new CD, and she's happy. Her wants are simple. She's simple. And that fellow isn't. They don't even like the same things."
Dad laughed. "How much chemistry did you know or like when you married me?"
"That was different. You were Mr. Honorable, Mr. Salt-of-the-Earth. And you still are," Francine said softly. She gave a small, rueful laugh. "She's soft, like you. Not like me, Jim."
"Well, we've been a great combination anyway, haven't we? Come on in with me. This is a big, useless fuss about nothing. Believe me. And even if it were as serious as you say, there wouldn't be anything we could do about it."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyable but sad
You will truly go through a full range of emotions with this book. Belva almost always makes her female leads the strong , admirable type - this female character is outstanding! You are sure to detest the male leads in this tale and the ending is stupendeous!
I received this book as a gift, but had never heard of Belva Plain. When all other books in house were exhausted, time to read this one. I was wishing I hadn't waited SO long - Thought I knew how the book was going to end - BOY was I wrong! I suggest this book to anyone I can. I have also purchased more Belva Plain books and can't wait to read them.
I haven't read Belva Plain in awhile, and found myself disappointed in this one. Basically, this book is about a mother whom is 'blackmailed' by her ex into giving up her children to him because of something he convinces her she did wrong. Good storyline. But, a very disappointing factor was in Hyacinth's (the mother, -main character) reaction, or lack of, in losing her children to her husband, Gerald. I would wonder if Belva Plain has any children of her own, because if she did, she would understand a mother's 'love', and how no mother would have just 'rolled over' on her back and let her husband take her children from her like that, -even with the threat of 'blackmail' and the possibility of going to jail, without a bit more of a fight! Any real mother would have had a MUCH stronger reaction; -gone crazy with grief, -tried harder to at least visit with her kids, -moved to Florida to be near them, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. But Ms. Plain had Hyacinth moving on with her life far too quickly and easily without much reaction or emotion, and not making much effort to be with/near her children, throughout the book. At one point Hyacinth was even upset with her own mother, Francine, for bringing the children by unexpectedly a day early for a visit ! All in all, Hyacinth's character was just not that of what a natural mother's reaction would be, and I found myself distacted throughout the book because of it. After all, the basic storyline was that of a mother robbed of her children due to 'blackmail' by her ex. The storyline was there, but missed out on the true emotions of a mother. Ms. Plain should have dug deeper into this main character.
Gerald and hyansith have almost the perfect marrige. he is a respicted surgen, she a beautiful artist. they have a lovely home with two beautiful chilldren. but one terible night, hyacith commets an act that she will regret. an act that gives garald the ultamate punishment' the price of his silince, to custady of there two children. when hyanceth'ss own angry mother francine wants to know why she refuses to fight for custady hyacith can give no answear. not until she learns what happend on that terabble night can she be free of the gult.
This book keeps you intrigued from beginning to end. Belva Plain does an excellent with this book!
I bought this book without knowing what to expect. I had never heard of Belva Plain, much less read any of her work. After the Fire kept my attention from start to finish. Ms. Plain really has a way of bringing her characters to life, at times my heart actually ached for Hyacinth, an incredibly naive woman who eventually overcame many obstacles in her life. I definitely recommend this book, I enjoyed it thoroughly.