Just as the topic of professor/student relationships is heating up (Harvard and other universities are now banning such liaisons), novelist, essayist and humor writer Susan Shapiro offers her own take on the highly charged subject in her captivating new novel, What’s Never Said. Lila Penn, a naïve, fatherless young woman from Wisconsin, comes to the big city to study poetry and falls, head-first, for Daniel Wildman, her distinguished professor, who also happens to be twenty years her senior. Decades after their tangled involvement ends, she arranges a meeting in downtown Manhattan. But the shocking encounter blindsides Lila, causing her to question her memory—and her sanity. Moving back and forth between Greenwich Village, Vermont, and Tel Aviv, Shapiro slowly unravels the painful history that has haunted both Daniel and Lila for thirty years. In the excerpt below, Lila’s mother encounters her daughter’s new love interest for the first time.
At the book table, Lila’s mother took ten dollars to buy Cormick’s Celtic Songs of the Heartland. Before Lila could stop her, she bumped into Daniel.
“Professor Wildman,” Lila said, hoping he didn’t see her mom holding his enemy’s book. “You killed tonight.”
Daniel thrust out his arm. “The infamous Hannah Lerner,” he said, his eyes catching Cormick’s book slipping into her purse.
“The infamous Daniel Wildman.” They shook robustly.
“Your daughter is very special.”
“I appreciate your kindness to her. She loves it here.”
“We love her too,” he said. “I mean, the program. She’s one of our best students.”
A group of aspiring authors interrupted.
“Your public awaits you,” Lila said, hoping nobody could tell she was into him.