“The Fortunate Ones” — An Excerpt from Ellen Umansky’s New Novel

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 12.55.08 PMBack in summer 2011, Lilith published Take the A Train to Scotland, from a novel-in-progress by Ellen Umansky. The novel, now called The Fortunate Ones, has undergone a sea change (Umansky says that the section that appeared in Lilith did not make it into the final version of the novel) and is poised to make its debut on February 14.

The story begins in 1939 in Vienna, and as the specter of war looms over Europe, Rose Zimmer’s parents are desperate to flee. Unable to escape themselves, they manage to secure passage for their young daughter on a kindertransport, and send her to live with strangers in England. When the war is finally over in 1946, a grief-stricken Rose attempts to build a life for herself. Alone in London, she becomes increasingly focused on trying to retrieve a bit of her lost childhood: the Chaim Soutine painting her mother had held precious.

Many years later, the painting finds its way to America. In modern-day Los Angeles, Lizzie Goldstein has returned home for her father’s funeral. Newly single and unsure of her path, she carries a burden of guilt that cannot be displaced. Years ago, as a teenager, Lizzie threw a party at her father’s house with unexpected but far-reaching consequences. The Soutine painting that she loved and had provided lasting comfort to her after her own mother had died was stolen, and has never been recovered. This painting will bring Lizzie and Rose together and ignite an unexpected friendship that excavates painful and long-held secrets. Below is an excerpt from The Fortunate Ones: