Not Our Kind: A Novel

Not Our Kind: A Novel

by Kitty Zeldis

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Overview

With echoes of Rules of Civility and The Boston Girl, a compelling and thought-provoking novel set in postwar New York City, about two women—one Jewish, one a WASP—and the wholly unexpected consequences of their meeting.

One rainy morning in June, two years after the end of World War II, a minor traffic accident brings together Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy. Their encounter seems fated: Eleanor, a teacher and recent Vassar graduate, needs a job. Patricia’s difficult thirteen-year-old daughter Margaux, recovering from polio, needs a private tutor.

Though she feels out of place in the Bellamys’ rarefied and elegant Park Avenue milieu, Eleanor forms an instant bond with Margaux. Soon the idealistic young woman is filling the bright young girl’s mind with Shakespeare and Latin. Though her mother, a hat maker with a little shop on Second Avenue, disapproves, Eleanor takes pride in her work, even if she must use the name "Moss" to enter the Bellamys’ restricted doorman building each morning, and feels that Patricia’s husband, Wynn, may have a problem with her being Jewish.

Invited to keep Margaux company at the Bellamys’ country home in a small town in Connecticut, Eleanor meets Patricia’s unreliable, bohemian brother, Tom, recently returned from Europe. The spark between Eleanor and Tom is instant and intense. Flushed with new romance and increasingly attached to her young pupil, Eleanor begins to feel more comfortable with Patricia and much of the world she inhabits. As the summer wears on, the two women’s friendship grows—until one hot summer evening, a line is crossed, and both Eleanor and Patricia will have to make important decisions—choices that will reverberate through their lives.

Gripping and vividly told, Not Our Kind illuminates the lives of two women on the cusp of change—and asks how much our pasts can and should define our futures.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

09/03/2018
The pseudonymous Zeldis masterfully transports readers to 1947 New York to depict the relationships that develop between a young Jewish woman and a Protestant family. Eleanor Moskowitz and Patricia Bellamy run into each other—or rather, their cabs collide—on Park Avenue, and the elegant Patricia invites the job-seeking Eleanor to her high-end apartment to help the young woman recover from the jolt. Patricia’s 13-year-old daughter, Margaux, an angry polio survivor who walks with the aid of a stick, is immediately drawn to Eleanor’s intelligent, forthright demeanor, and Eleanor finds young Margaux equally appealing. Patricia is also intrigued by Eleanor, even though she has “never entertained a Jew in her apartment before.” Eleanor, a Vassar grad, is hired to tutor Margaux in the Bellamy home, but Patricia’s bigoted husband, Wynn, is resistant to the idea. Eleanor accompanies the family on a summer retreat in Connecticut to continue working with Margaux, and passions begin to rise between Eleanor and Tom, Patricia’s brother, who joins the family in their summer home after a stint in France. Lively descriptions of 1940s clothing and culture complement the realistic characters. This is a vivid, winning novel. (Sept.)

Lauren Belfer

Kitty Zeldis has a gift for making even the smallest details of the past shine with vivid color. The story she tells in NOT OUR KIND—of two women in post-World War II New York trying to forge lives of integrity and purpose—resonates with the struggles of women today. Compelling, frank, and all too real, NOT OUR KIND kept me reading long into the night.

Booklist

Zeldis uses the rich details of post-war New York—the music, the clothes, the cocktails—to tell the story of two women looking for fulfillment.

The Jewish Voice (Philadelphia)

Drenched in rich and colorful prose, Zeldis portrays interpersonal relationships in a time and place framed in prejudice. Not Our Kind speaks to everyone, no matter what ‘kind’ you are.

Booklist

Zeldis uses the rich details of post-war New York—the music, the clothes, the cocktails—to tell the story of two women looking for fulfillment.

Historical Novels Review

A fun, absorbing read, Kitty Zeldis’ Not Our Kind takes place in post-WWII New York City. . . . the novel touches on religious and class prejudices as well as misogyny, a topic especially poignant in the #MeToo era we’re currently experiencing. . . . delving deeply into these issues set the stage for a personality- and drama-driven story. It is entertaining and captures the flavor of the city and class differences well. . . . Not Our Kind is an enjoyable read.

Adrienne Sharp

Kitty Zeldis shakes open a map of postwar New York City and draws the reader right down onto its streets and into the lives of the women who walk them. Her characters button up their coats and march their way through that decade’s particular disasters—the polio epidemic, religious prejudice, class divisions, generalized misogyny—determined to locate power and happiness for themselves and the ones they love. Not Our Kind is a beautiful and compelling read.

Jillian Cantor

Rich, evocative, and atmospheric, NOT OUR KIND by Kitty Zeldis is the story of two very different women whose chance meeting changes both their lives in the late 1940s New York. Zeldis weaves a beautifully written story not only about class and women’s roles, but also about love, friendship, motherhood, and coming of age. I was absolutely captivated by this stunning historical novel.

Jennie Fields

Kitty Zeldis is one of those rare writers who doesn’t just weave a story, she creates a world.  In this case, 1947 New York -- vivid, dazzling, challenging -- where a young Jewish woman dares to cross the line into the land of WASP privilege, with unexpected results. With deeply human characters and resonant themes, NOT OUR KIND kept me reading well into the night.

Suzanne Rindell

NOT OUR KIND transports the reader back to 1947, to the heart of New York’s WASP-y Upper East Side.  Zeldis has written a powerful and page-turning account of what happens when Eleanor--smart, beautiful, and Jewish--is employed as a tutor by the troubled Bellamy family, and finds herself out of place in their world. Can the fox and the hound ever truly be friends? This engaging novel succeeds in putting a fresh, feminine spin on that question.

USA Today

[An] enthralling portrait of a woman daring to defy convention in the face of rigid social confines. Lively period details of the bustling city breathe life into Not Our Kind, a story capturing issues of discrimination, the marginalization of women and class disparities. Often veering in unexpected directions, the novel is filled with thought-provoking turns that explore timely subjects in a gripping light. . . . the book’s greatest strength is exploring how the building of relationships can help dissolve ignorance. . . . its themes linger long after the final page is read.

Kirkus Reviews

2018-08-21

A young Jewish teacher and a WASPy married woman find an unexpected connection in post-World War II New York.

Eleanor Moskowitz is used to experiencing anti-Semitism. On the job hunt after a disastrous romance caused her to leave her last teaching position, she's advised to change her name to Eleanor Moss so as not to worry potential employers. But then, on the way to a job interview, her cab is hit. It isn't a serious accident, but the other cab's passenger, Patricia Bellamy, insists on taking Eleanor home with her so she can freshen up. It's there that Eleanor meets Patricia's daughter, Margaux, a polio survivor who recently scared off a tutor with her surly attitude. Margaux takes a liking to Eleanor and asks Patricia if she can be her tutor. Patricia, who rarely interacts with Jewish people, doesn't know what her stodgy husband and her status-obsessed friends will think. Still, she hires Eleanor, and Margaux begins to flourish. Eleanor, who still lives with her mother above a hat shop and has never had much money, is sucked into the Bellamys' world of glamour and privilege. But when Eleanor begins a romance with Patricia's bohemian brother, Tom, things start to get complicated. Could Eleanor ever really be part of the Bellamys' world, or is she just too different? Zeldis paints a vivid picture of two separate New Yorks in the 1940s—Eleanor's shabby clothes and budget meals versus Patricia's fancy dresses and staff-prepared dinners. Their twin journeys toward independence—Eleanor's from her mother and Patricia's from her husband—show that no matter how much money a woman had, she was still constrained by the misogyny and stifling gender roles of the time.

A compelling tale of friendship, class, prejudice, and love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062844248
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/03/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 183,382
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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