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Acclaimed novelist and playwright Ira Levin(1929-2007) was a native New Yorker whose books include A Kiss Before Dying, Rosemary’s Baby, This Perfect Day, The Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil, Silver, and Son of Rosemary. His play Deathtrap was the longest-running thriller in Broadway history. Levin also wrote the lyrics of the Streisand classic He Touched Me and was the recipient of three Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards (including the Grand Master Award in 2003), as well as the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Please visit his website at iralevin.org.
In Manhattan, on the crisp, clear morning of Tuesday, November 9, 1999, Dr. Stanley Shand, a retired dentist twice divorced, leaves his apartment on Amsterdam Avenue for his daily constitutional. Though eighty-nine he walks vigorously, his plaid-capped head erect, his eyes bright. He is buoyed both by good health and a secret, a glorious secret that warms his every waking moment. He has been a participant—indeed, has recently become the last living participant—in a cosmic event thirty-three years in the making that is now within two months of its ultimate fruition.
At Broadway and Seventy-fourth Street an out-of-control taxi shoots across the sidewalk and squashes Dr. Shand against the wall of the Beacon Theater. He dies instantly.
In that same instant—a few seconds after 11:03 A.M.—in the Halsey-Bodein Nursing Home in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, the eyes of the patient in Room 215 open. They have been closed all the years the woman has been at H-B—since nineteen-seventy-something, as long as anyone there can remember.
A wizened black nurse massaging the woman's right arm shows extraordinary presence of mind. She gulps, draws breath, and goes on massaging. "Hi, baby," she says softly. "Nice to have you with us." The nameplate on her uniform reads CLARISE; above it hangs an I [??] ANDY button. Freeing a hand, she gropes for the nightstand, jabs a push button.
The patient's eyes, staring upward, blink. Her lips purse, shiny with salve. She's in her fifties, pale and fine-boned. Her head, its graying auburn hair neatly brushed, rolls toward the side, her blue eyes pleading.
"You're going to be fine," Clarise tells her, jabbing the push button, jabbing again. "Don't you worry, you're getting better now." She lowers the woman's arm to the bed. "I'm going to get the doctor," she says. "Don't you worry. Be right back."
The woman watches her leave.
"TIFFANY! Take off them fuckin' earphones! Get Atkinson! Two-fifteen opened her eyes! She's awake! Two-fifteen's awake!"
* * *
What in God's name had happened?
She'd been sitting at the desk by the bedroom window, around seven in the evening, while Andy lay on the floor a few feet away watching TV. She was typing a letter home about moving to San Francisco, trying not to hear Kukla and Ollie and the damn coven chanting up a storm next door at Minnie and Roman's—and here she was in a sunny hospital room with an IV in one arm and a nurse massaging the other. Was Andy hurt too? Oh God, please not! Had there been some kind of disaster? Why didn't she remember anything?
She got the tip of her tongue out, licked her lips; minty ointment of some kind coated them. How long had she been asleep? A day? Two? Nothing hurt, yet she couldn't quite move. She worked at getting her throat cleared.
The nurse hurried in. "Doctor's coming," she said. "Stay cool."
Rosemary whispered, "Is ... my son here?"
"No, just you. Talking! Praise the Lord!" The nurse drew a sleeve down Rosemary's arm, squeezed her hand, and moved to the foot of the bed. "Praise Jesus!"
Rosemary said, "What ... happened?"
"Don't nobody know, baby. You been out like a light."
Clarise drew a blanket up about Rosemary's shoulders, frowning. She said, "I don't rightly know. I wasn't here when you came in. You ax the doctor." She smiled down at Rosemary, CLARISE with an I [??] ANDY button.
"My son's name is Andy," Rosemary said, smiling back up at her. "Does the heart mean love?"
Clarise said, "That's right." She touched a finger to the round white button. "'I love Andy.' They been doing it for—for a while now. Different things. Like 'I love New York,' anything."
Rosemary said, "It's cute. I haven't seen it before."
A man in a white jacket excused himself through a few elderly people looking in at the doorway, a large man with ginger hair and a bushy ginger beard. Clarise turned, moving aside, as he came in and closed the door. "She's talking, and she can move her head."
"Hello, Miss Fountain!" the doctor said, coming to the bed, smiling at her through his ginger beard. He put his bag and a manila folder on a chair alongside. "I'm Dr. Atkinson," he said, turning down the side of the blanket. "This is great news." He took Rosemary's wrist with warm fingers and looked at his raised watch.
"What happened to me?" she asked. "How long have I been here?"
"In a moment," the doctor said, studying the watch. He looked as if under the beard he wasn't much older than she, somewhere in his mid-thirties. An ultramodern stethoscope hung like a slim chrome necktie against his jacket, a DR. ATKINSON nameplate on one side of it and an I [??] ANDY button on the other—an Andy on the staff, she guessed, or a favorite patient. She'd try to get one for herself before she left.
Dr. Atkinson let go her wrist, smiling down at her. "So far, so good," he said. "Surprisingly so. Bear with me another minute, please. I want to make sure we're not going to lose you again, then I'll tell you as much as we know. Do you feel any pain?"
"No," she said.
"Good. Try to relax; I know it won't be easy."
It wasn't. As much as we know ...
Meaning that there were things they didn't know ...
And the name he had called her, Miss Fountain ...
An icy hollow grew in her stomach—while the doctor attended to her heart and her eyes and her ears and her blood pressure.
She had been there longer than two days, she was sure of it. Two weeks?
They had cast a spell on her, Minnie and Roman and the rest of the coven. That was what the heavy chanting was about. They had found out she was taking Andy three thousand miles away from them, that she had bought the plane tickets.
She remembered how they had cast a spell on her old friend Hutch, back when she was pregnant, because they were afraid he knew enough about witchcraft, the real kind, to catch on to what they had done to her, and whose child she was carrying. Poor Hutch had been in an inexplicable coma for three or four months, and then died. She was lucky to be alive but what of Andy? He was completely in their hands while she lay there; they'd be feeding and fostering the side of him she tried not to think about. "Damn them!" she said.
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that," the doctor said, seating himself at the bedside. He hitched the chair closer, leaned his gingery head toward her.
"How long?" she asked him. "Weeks? Months?"
"Reilly," she said. "Rosemary Reilly."
He drew back, opened the folder on his lap, peered downward.
"Tell me!" she said. "I have a six-year-old son who's in—he's with people I don't trust."
"You were signed in here," Dr. Atkinson said, looking down, "by a Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Fountain, as their granddaughter, Rosemary Fountain."
"The Fountains," Rosemary said, "belong to the—to this group of people I'm talking about. They're the ones who put me here, I mean put me into the coma. Isn't that what it was, an 'inexplicable coma'?"
"Yes, but a coma isn't—"
"I know what was done to me," she broke in, raising herself on an elbow; she fell back. She tried to raise herself again despite warnings and hands; this time she got the elbow back where she could brace herself against it. She stayed up, eye to eye with Dr. Atkinson. "I know what was done to me," she said, "but I'm not going to tell you because I know from experience that you'll think I'm crazy. I'm not. I'd appreciate it if you would please tell me how long I've been here, and where exactly I am, and when I'll be able to go home."
Dr. Atkinson sat back and drew a breath. He looked gravely at her. Said, "You're in a nursing home in Upper Montclair, New Jersey."
"A nursing home ?" she said.
He nodded. "Halsey-Bodein. We specialize in—long-term care."
She stared at him. Said, "What day is this?"
"Tuesday," he said, "November ninth ..."
"November?" she said. "It was May last night! Dear God!" She fell back against the pillow, both hands over her mouth, her eyes staring upward, tears welling. May, June, July, August, September, October—six months! Snatched from her life! And Andy in their hands all those six-times-thirty days and nights!
She saw the doctor still looking gravely at her, still keeping a distance. ...
She raised her hands from her mouth, turned them before her eyes. Their backs, the skin of them, was—grainy. A brown spot, two ... She touched one hand with the fingertips of the other. Looked at him.
"You've been here a very long time," he said. Now he leaned close, took her hand, and clasped it. Held it. Clarise, at the other side of the bed, took hold of her other hand. She looked from one of them to the other, her eyes wide, her lips trembling.
"Would you like a sedative?" the doctor asked.
She shook her head. "No," she said. "No. I don't want to sleep again. Ever. How old am I? What year is it?"
He swallowed, tears in his eyes. "It's—1999," he said.
She stared at him.
Clarise confirmed it, biting her lip, nodding.
"You were brought here in September of 1972," Dr. Atkinson said, blinking. "A little over twenty-seven years ago. Before that you'd been in New York Hospital for four months. The Fountains, whoever they were, set up a trust fund that's been paying for your maintenance here ever since."
She lay back, shut her eyes, shook her head. Impossible! Impossible! The coven had won! Andy was fully grown, a stranger raised by them, in their ways, for their purposes! He could be anywhere now, or dead for all she knew! "Oh, Andy, Andy!" she cried.
Dr. Atkinson, wide-eyed, asked, "How do you know about Andy?"
"Her son, she mean," Clarise said, patting Rosemary's hand. "His name's Andy too."
"Oh," Dr. Atkinson said, and took a breath. He leaned closer, patted Rosemary's hand and stroked her hair as she lay sobbing. "Miss—Mrs. Reilly," he said. "Rosemary ...I know it's small comfort when you've lost so many years, but as far as I know, only two of the people who've been in such long comas have survived. That you've emerged, and emerged so—cleanly, in such relatively sound condition—well, it's a miracle, that's what it is, Rosemary, an absolute miracle."CHAPTER 2
They left her alone for a while, after Clarise had wiped her face with a damp cloth and smoothed her hair, and she had sipped down some water. She had asked for the back of the bed to be raised partway. She leaned against the pillow, looking out a window beyond the IV stand, at November trees fittingly bereft of leaves.
She had asked for a mirror too.
Not a good move.
She debated—then lifted the plastic handle from the blanket and took yet another wincing look at Aunt Peg wincing back at her. Weird, the likeness. The main difference was that darlin' Aunt Peg had been around fifty the last time Rosemary had seen her, whereas she herself was fifty-eight plus.
She had done 31 + 27 in her head twice, and got 58 both times.
And Andy was thirty-three.
The tears started again. She exchanged the mirror for the clump of moist tissue, blotted both eyes. Get a grip on yourself, old lady. If he's alive he still needs you.
They wouldn't have harmed him physically, of course; they worshiped him. That was the trouble. Being raised by Minnie and Roman Castevet & Company, not to mention the frequent adoring visitors from all over the globe, Andy must have grown up as spoiled and overindulged as the worst of the Roman emperors. And maybe as evil as—as she hated to think who. The coven must have done everything in their power to open and encourage that darker side of him.
She had worked against them, hoping to teach him love by loving him, honesty and responsibility by good example—the enlightened Summerhill creed. Even when he was too young to understand, she had taken him on her lap each evening before—
She turned her head toward the doorway. An attractive, dark-haired woman leaned in, about her own age—her age before. The woman's navy suit, smart looking and not very futuristic, had white piping around its peaked lapels and an I [??] ANDY button on one. Smiling, she said, "I'm Tara Seitz, the counselor here. If you'd rather be alone, I'll be on my way, but I've talked with other coma survivors; I think I can be a help to you. Can I come in?"
Rosemary nodded. "Yes," she said. "It's Miss, not Mrs. I'm divorced."
Tara Seitz came in and sat in the bedside chair, wafting Chanel No. 5. That, at least, was the same; Rosemary drew in a deeper breath of it.
Tara Seitz smiled a model's dimpled smile. "Dr. Atkinson is thrilled with how you're doing, Rosemary," she said. "He and Dr. Bandhu, our chief of staff, want to do some tests later; if the results are what Dr. Atkinson expects, you'll be able to start physical therapy tomorrow morning. The sooner you do start, the quicker you'll be out of here. We have a really great therapy team."
Rosemary said, "How soon do you ..."
Tara, a palm raised, smiled and said, "That's not my department. My main message, I'm sorry to tell you, is that however distressed and disoriented you may be feeling now, tomorrow you'll be feeling even worse, much more aware of the time you lost. That's the way it is with shorter comas, and I'm sure yours wasn't basically any different."
Don't count on it, Tara. But she went on listening.
"But the day after tomorrow," Tara said, "you'll be feeling better than you do today, guaranteed, and better the day after, and so on. Try to remember that tomorrow. It'll be the pits, but it's all uphill from there. Truly."
Rosemary said, "I'll remember," and smiled at her. "Thanks."
"You have a son?" Tara asked.
"Yes," Rosemary said, and shook her head, sighing. "Thirty-three now. He could be anywhere. We had no family in New York, only—neighbors."
"No problem," Tara said. "We subscribe to a locator service." From a side pocket she drew what looked like a square black compact. Lifting its lid, she said, "What's his full name?"
Wonderingly, Rosemary said, "Andrew John Woodhouse ..."
Tara's dark eyes fixed on her.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"You said Reilly," Tara said.
"That's my maiden name," Rosemary said. "My married name was Woodhouse."
"Oh," Tara said. The compact seemed to be a 1999 memo pad; she tattooed inside it with a stinger-pointed red fingernail, saying, "Andrew, John, Woodhouse. Spelled like it sounds?"
"Yes," Rosemary said. The fingernail seemed to have been groomed for its task; the others were filed short. Weird. "Date of birth?" Tara asked.
Rosemary almost said 6/66, the way the Castevets always did. "June twenty-fifth, 1966," she said.
Tara tattooed, closed the gizmo, and smiled her dimpled smile. "I'll enter the request pronto," she said. "We'll have a fix on him by five."
"Five o'clock today?" Rosemary said.
Tara shrugged, pocketing the thing. "Credit cards, school and car registrations, video rentals, book clubs," she said, "they're all on computers now, and the computers are all connected or can be gotten into one way or another."
"That's wonderful !" Rosemary said.
"It has its down side," Tara said, standing up. "Everybody's kvetching about loss of privacy. Would you like to watch TV? It's the best way I can think of for you to get caught up on things. You're going to see enormous changes." She opened the nightstand drawer. "For one thing," she said, "the Cold War is over. We won, they caved." She took out a slim brown paddle, pointed it across the room. "Oh, that dinky screen. They switched you in here last month; now I know why."
Moored to the wall above the dresser, a giant TV screen bloomed into color and music.
"I'll have maintenance give you a big one pronto," Tara said. "This is the remote. Have you worked one?"
"One like it," Rosemary said, taking the button-studded paddle. "Clunkier."
Tara bent over, tiding Chanel. "It's a snap," she said, pointing that stinger-tipped nail. "Volume up and down, channels up and down. These are for the color."
Rosemary thumbed the TV picture from a happy woman holding a can of beans to a happy baby eating cereal to a somber newscaster with an I [??] ANDY button on his jacket. She froze her thumb. The mustached Negro newscaster talked about wildfires in California.
"This is an all-news channel," Tara whispered in her ear. "It would be a good one to watch."
Rosemary, turning to her, asked, "Who's Andy?"
Excerpted from Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin. Copyright © 1997 Ira Levin. Excerpted by permission of PEGASUS BOOKS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted October 2, 2006
The book started out interesting and ended bad. It is sickening that Ira Levin resorted to an ending as cliched and disappointing as this one. If you love Rosemary's Baby, stay far, far away from this mess.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 18, 2000
This could have been a good book, it had a good start but just seemed to drift away. The writer seemed scattered.....making it hard to figure who was speaking at what time. The ending was one I learned not to use in high school English composition because it leaves the reader feeling cheated. All in all.......not worth the time.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 16, 2003
this was a great book! i didn't want to leave the house, because i was so afriad. then again, i finished the book in an hour, because it was that great!
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Posted July 30, 2014
The story is set in 1999 at the close of the year. The tone of the book does not read like a sequel, in fact it is so different it almost sounds like a different author. There is really no excuse for how bad this book is. The ending of Rosemary's Baby left room for such a good sequel. This is a disappointment it is so bad it literally ruined the first one. Of course I did not listen to the bad reviews and spent over $10 on this book , maybe it would not have been so bad is it we're from the library. Rosemary's Baby is good on its own do not be tempted by this poor attempt a sequel. It gets 2 stars because at least I finished it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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