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New York City's Lower East Side on the eve of WWI. Abraham Cahan, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Daily Forward, receives a letter addressed to his "Bintel Brif" column from a twenty-three-year-old girl who confesses to living in sin with her uncle and seeks his advice. The girl's description of her plight inflames Cahan's imagination; the enclosed photograph, a young woman in a white cotton shift gazing languidly up at the camera from her bed, overwhelms him with desire. "Peering at the photograph, wondering if her slackened, unprotected presentation of herself was the aftermath of a feverish embrace, Cahan felt a ghostly invisible presence possess him, settling into the emptiness in his soul." Thus begins the drama of a righteous man's struggle to free himself from an obsession that threatens to destroy him and mortally wound his family. Desperate to fathom the mystery of her power, Cahan explores the girl's past only to discover that her story about herself is a skein of lies. Has she in fact been sent by enemies in Tammany Hall to dishonor him? Or is she an avenging angel dispatched by God to exact retribution for a life of sacrilege? Against the rich background of the labor movement and Jewish intellectual life in 1913, John Nathan's spellbinding novel explores the conflict between moral rectitude and primal lust that savages the heart and mind of a man esteemed by his contemporaries for his probity and wisdom.