Charity Girl 

Michael Lowenthal.Houghton Mifflin.On sale 1/28

The protagonist of Michael Lowenthal’s engaging novel Charity Girl is one of the 50,000 women spuriously imprisoned by the U.S. Government during WWI. This sounds like a dull premise, but what bubbles up through the setup is a spirited, sexy romp through a Boston in the grip of war fever. Frieda Mintz, a 17-year-old Jewish shopgirl, likes fast cars, handsome young officers, dances, drinking, and the Red Sox; her resistance to parental authority and independent spirit mark her as something of a proto-feminist. The details of her arrest and exile to a women’s labor house have obvious parallels to the suspension of civil rights post-9/11, but Lowenthal wisely chooses not to force a political message onto his narrative. The period setting is vividly rendered without the overabundance of superfluous detail that makes so much historical fiction headache-inducing. What stays with the reader from Charity Girl is Frieda Mintz and her thirst for life.

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