“Belva Plain is a talented tale-spinner with an almost Dickensian ability to keep her stories going.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
Paul Werner watched the proud, daring immigrant Anna marry another man. But his desire for her haunts him...even after he weds the elegant Mimi, a woman of his own class. Now, as Paul wrestles with the dark demons of forbidden passion, his family and business are plunged into a maelstrom of tragedy and social changes. Ahead lie the dark days of the Depression, the rise of pure evil in Europe, and a war that will change the world forever. But for Paul Werner a more personal struggle awaits—a choice of a lifetime and a new beginning, or the most painful of final good-byes.
Belva Plain’s Tapestry takes up the threads of lives encountered in her beloved epic, Evergreen, to create an entirely new drama of a family’s loyalties and divisions, its secrets, and its destiny. . . .
About the Author
Belva Plain captured readers' hearts with her first novel, Evergreen, which Delacorte published more than 30 years ago. It topped the New York Times best-seller list for 41 weeks and aired as an NBC-TV miniseries. In total, more than 20 of her books have been New York Times best sellers.
Before becoming a novelist, Belva Plain wrote short stories for many major magazines, but taking care of a husband and three children did not give her the time to concentrate on the novel she had always wanted to write. When she looked back and said she didn't have the time, she felt as though she had been making excuses. In retrospect, she said, "I didn't make the time." But, she reminded us, during the era that she was raising her family, women were supposed to concentrate only on their children. Today 30 million copies of her books are in print.
A Barnard College graduate who majored in history, Belva Plain enjoyed a wonderful marriage of more than 40 years to Irving Plain, an ophthalmologist. Widowed for more than 25 years, Ms. Plain continued to reside in New Jersey, where she and her husband had raised their family and which was still home to her nearby children and grandchildren until her death in October 2010.
Date of Birth:October 9, 1915
Date of Death:October 12, 2010
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Place of Death:Short Hills, New Jersey
Education:B.A., Barnard College
Read an Excerpt
By Belva Plain
Random HouseBelva Plain
All right reserved.
In the spring of the year 1920, Paul Werner sat in a private hospital on New York's Upper East Side, waiting for the birth of his first child. He was thirty-two years old, and after surviving the worst of the war in the trenches of France, had come home in good health. He was an attractive man, with a strong narrow frame and an aquiline face; when he was animated he looked younger than his years. Chiefly, though, his expression was thoughtful, courteous and listening; when his vivid blue eyes, so unusual in combination with olive skin, turned their full attention to anything or anyone, the effect was startling.
His future lay clearly marked before him; it always had been. Second in authority at the investment banking house founded by his late grandfather, he knew he was only a step away from the first position. Soon his father would retire, and Paul would be moving into the faintly shabby, spacious front room that looked out onto Wall Street. The family had deliberately maintained an atmosphere of quiet, unassuming prosperity. The elder Werner liked to compare their narrow little building, now wedged among skyscrapers, to a counting house in a Dickens novel. Its comfortable atmosphere suited Paul very well. An office was a place of business: one did not flaunt luxuries there; indeed, one did not flaunt them anywhere.
It would seem that Paul had everything. His wife, four years youngerthan he, was a gentle patrician girl whom he had known from childhood. Marian, affectionately called "Mimi," belonged to one of those families who, not necessarily related by blood, were a part of the tight, unbroken German-Jewish circle that had been prospering in the city since the Civil War. They went to the same schools, belonged to the same clubs, and summered at the same places in the Adirondacks or at the Jersey Shore. Paul's family and Mimi's had been especially close: Mimi and Paul had sat across a table from each other at birthdays and on holidays since they were old enough to eat with the adults. He had taken her to her first dance.
Now, after seven years of childless marriage, of numerous medical tests and monthly disappointments, at last she lay upstairs on the maternity floor. All his hopes lay with her. He wondered–for he was much given, perhaps too much given, to self-analysis–why his need to have children should be so consuming. Had it perhaps become so urgent because he had been marked by the terrible waste and slaughter of the war? But whatever the reason, it didn't matter. Simply, his need was there.
He sat now trying to concentrate on a magazine and, not succeeding, gazed out into the blank air at the center of the room. His long, slender feet were crossed at the ankles; he hadn't moved for half an hour. On the settee beside him lay his velvet-collared overcoat, his black leather briefcase and silver-knobbed umbrella. His agitation was concealed. Composure was a part of his nature and his training. One didn't allow whatever might be raging inside to reveal itself to the whole world. Only his eyes, alternately soft and sharply penetrating, could betray any message to those who knew him very well. There were not many who knew him very well.
When he glanced out of the window, he was surprised to see that the streetlamps had come on. The day had ebbed away; he had been here for hours, ever since they had summoned him to say that Mimi had gone to the hospital. The rain, which had been pouring before, had dwindled to a fine mist and the quiet street was deserted. There was hardly a sound indoors, either; in small private hospitals like this one there was no bustle. Now the quiet seemed eerie, and Paul shivered.
A first delivery could take an awfully long time. Everyone knew that. He had been prepared for it, and he told himself that he had also been prepared for it, and he told himself that he had also been prepared to see his wife suffer. It was expected and natural that women suffered. Yet her face had been so terrible, distorted, unrecognizable, wild! Her hair soaking wet on her forehead, and her screams, as she twisted and flung herself, lunging on the bed . . . They had put him out of her room.
She bore pain well, he thought, remembering the time she'd had a compound fracture of the arm. Yet childbirth was not to be compared with a broken arm, was it? So that the pain he had seen upstairs was not unusual? He didn't know. Certainly, though, the doctor knew. He was one of the best obstetricians in the city.
A young man came back to retrieve the coat and hat he had left on the chair across from Paul.
"A girl," he announced, answering Paul's question before it could be asked. "Seven pounds. A beautiful blonde."
Mirth seemed to bubble in the man's throat. He would go home now and sit down at the telephone to spread his happy news. Paul gave congratulations. The man had brought his wife in not two hours ago! When he went out again, the silence rang in Paul's ears.
He got up and began to pace the room. His legs ached from sitting. It was a dreary room, filled with imitation factory-made Chippendale, all in good enough taste but sterile. Tenth-rate landscapes on the walls. Hudson River school. Also imitation, of course. Well, what did he want in a hospital waiting room, for heaven's sake? An art exhibit?
He tried to focus his thoughts on art. He had always been open to new ideas, had bought Expressionists before they became as sought after as they were now; yet some of the wildest stuff that was being done today he couldn't look at. It reflected only what the war had done to the world: pulled things apart. It made you uneasy; the world before 1914 might have been a century ago, not just six years. His mind roved. Everything in the postwar world was swelling larger. Debts, too, he thought soberly. Debt was a pit one must not fall into; that was one thing, anyway, on which he agreed with his father. There were others on which he did not agree.
Good God! What were they doing upstairs?
He pulled his thoughts back. What had he been thinking about? Oh, debts! No, no speculation, not for clients or himself. For the family, triple-A bonds and unmortgaged properties. Prepare for the biblical seven lean years that were bound to come.
Why didn't somebody come down and tell him something?
The people at the desks in the office across the hall didn't know anything, or said they didn't. Damn it all! He was just going to ask them again, to insist that they find out something, anything. Insist! He was crossing the hall when the elevator whirred, the door opened, and the doctor called out.
"Mr. Werner! Mr. Werner! It's all right. Your wife's fine." He laid his hand on Paul's arm. "We're very, very lucky tonight."
Lucky? Why? Was it to be a matter of luck, then? Had something gone wrong? Or almost gone wrong? Paul stood there, confused.
"My office is just down the hall. Come in. Sit down."
Yes, something has gone wrong. He wants to tell me.
"Very lucky," the doctor repeated. "We had to do a cesarean, Mr. Werner. Tried not to." He sighed, moving his hand, left, right, and back like a pendulum. "But it went well."
"A cesarean," Paul said. He felt cold.
"The problem was a transverse lie, lying crossways, that is." And again the doctor moved his hand; there was a small spot of blood on his white sleeve. "It's impossible to deliver a baby that way, you understand–"
I wish he would stop saying you understand, and get on with it.
Paul leaned forward as if to pull the words out of the other man's mouth.
"–and as the woman continues to labor in that situation, the uterus ruptures, with internal bleeding. An ordeal, Mr. Werner, if you want to call it that. Quite an ordeal."
"Yes," Paul said.
"But, thank God, she's come through. We've made the repairs and she's resting comfortably. Just came out of the anesthesia. I've been waiting up there until she did."
"Yes," Paul said.
"A very brave young woman, your wife."
Certificates and diplomas on the narrow wall at the end of the room behind the doctor's head testified to his knowledge and gave him authority. He's not much older than I am. Paul thought irrelevantly, reading the dates. Arthur Bennet Lyons, he read. One was in Latin; that gave authority too.
"Will," the doctor was saying. "There's no real proof, I know, but I'm convinced that a patient with a brave will can tilt things in the right direction. Your wife held on, Mr. Werner."
He's talking to fill a void, Paul thought. There's something else he doesn't want to get to; neither of us does. Yet he must know that I know what it is. And through lips so dry that they almost stuck together, he asked:
"Dead. In that situation it always is. Inevitably."
"A normal baby?"
"Yes. A good-sized boy . . . I'm awfully sorry."
An old image flared in the eye of Paul's mind; like a bulb turned on or a match struck into total darkness, it flared and was quenched.
My son–my sons–and I go down to Conservatory Pond in the park, bringing the sailboats, the beautiful toy boats with mahogany hulls. A wind ruffles the water, the boats move outward with bellied sails and the strings go taut in our hands. I watch the boy–boys–laugh. Their baby teeth are like white seeds, like pebbles. We walk home, holding hands to cross the street. When they're older, we'll sail real boats out of Nantucket or the Cape. My son. Sons.
He came to himself. The doctor was doodling circles on a sheet of yellow paper.
"Would you like me to explain more clearly, draw you a diagram?"
"No, I'm sure you did everything anyone could do. May I see her now?"
The doctor's eyes were sympathetic. He looked old and tired.
"I don't see why not, for a minute or two."
Paul went upstairs. He felt like an intruder, passing between two rows of closed doors that seemed to frown reproach upon him as he broke the silence with his steps and his squeaking shoes. The place smelled of disinfectant and fear.
The door to his wife's room was ajar. In dim light he saw a white bed in the center of the room; a long straight ridge lay on it; he saw a catafalque and a stone body.
A nurse, who had been sitting in a corner, stood up and rustled past him. "Come in. Your wife's been waiting for you." She went out and closed the door.
Lightly, gently, he kissed Mimi's forehead as if he feared that his touch would hurt her. She had come back from the dead!
"Are you terribly sad about the boy? Has it broken your heart?" she murmured.
"No. Well–yes, of course. But what matters is, you're here."
"They didn't let me see him."
Paul didn't answer.
"I'm sure they would have if I'd insisted. But I thought–this way I won't have to remember his face. This way–"
She turned into the pillow. Pity ran through Paul, watching her struggle for control.
"This way," she resumed, "it can be almost as if we hadn't had him at all, don't you see?"
"Yes, yes, I see."
They were both silent. Somewhere in the building, in some room tiled, cold and bare, as he imagined it to be, lay the child. Normal, the doctor had said. A good-sized boy. Eight days from now he would have been circumcised, given his name and the rabbi's blessing. In the living room, where the sun streams from the long windows, it would have been. After that, wine and cake in the dining room. All the relatives there, admiring. A good-sized boy. I can't grasp it, Paul thought. It doesn't make sense. Why should this have happened to us when everything was going so well?
Mimi was speaking.
"Paul, there'll be another, you know."
"You'd go through this again?"
"It wouldn't happen like this. Lightning doesn't strike twice."
That's not true, he thought. And yet a surge of hope, almost of elation, jumped at once into his throat. Yes, as soon as she was properly strong, there'd be another chance. Plenty of people had this kind of trouble and then went on to have as many children as they wanted. Of course they did. And a woman could have more than one cesarean. Look forward, not back!
She touched his hand with chilled fingers.
"You're cold," he said. "I'll go tell the nurse to get another blanket."
"No. Stay a minute."
He rubbed her hand between his. They smiled at each other. She looked normal. Who could believe it, after the way she had been only a few hours ago! Some pink had crept back into her fair, freckled skin; her long sandy hair had been brushed and the nurse had tied it back with a white ribbon.
"You frightened the life out of me," he said.
"Poor Paul! I'm sorry, I promise I won't do it again. What are you going to tell my parents and yours?
"The truth, without letting them know how bad it was. I'll phone them all in Florida in the morning."
"You ought to go home. You must be exhausted. Have you had anything at all to eat?"
"I'm not hungry."
"But you have to eat! What time is it?"
"I don't know." He looked at his watch. "Almost ten."
"I know you won't wake the maids up, though you should. There's a whole roast chicken in the icebox, and a pudding. I had her make a lemon pudding this morning. Do fix something before you go to bed. I'm sure you won't take care of yourself at all while I'm here. You never do."
He laughed and kissed her forehead again. "How on earth did I ever get through the war without you to take care of me?"
He stood up. "The doctor said only a few minutes. You have to rest. I'll be back first thing in the morning." At the door he remembered. "Is there anything you want me to bring you?"
He went out on tiptoe. Halfway down the corridor he was struck again with the thought that his dead baby lay somewhere in the building. He could ask. He had a right to see it. He wanted to. Also, he didn't want to . . .
Abruptly, there came a tremendous pressure in his chest. It surged and beat into his neck, burst and roared into his head. And he knew it for what it was: the pressure of something he wanted to forget. For a few hours this afternoon, and again up here with Mimi, it had subsided, but now it came back, expanding to fill him and take his breath away. And he had to grasp the wall to steady himself.
In a few moments he breathed naturally again.
Excerpted from Tapestry by Belva Plain Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Beautifully written. A book to savor
Before you read this book you must read Evergreen and then The Golden Cup. This book is the last of a wonderful story about a family starting in late 1800's and through both World Wars. Reading the e-books makes it easy to order the 3 books all at once.