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Unmentionables Paperback – January 7, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Unmentionables is a love story and a journey of self-discovery."
--Historical Novel Society

"Loewenstein isn't afraid to let her characters develop a little more deeply than you'd expect."
--Spacebeer

"This is a period that begs for great sweeping novels and I was especially happy to lose myself in the lives of these interesting people...This is how we live, after all, with so much big and small going on around us."
--Chasing Ray

"Laurie Loewenstein's Unmentionables is the best work of historical fiction I have read in the past few years."
--Bookworlder

"Characters open the story in opposition to each other and sometimes themselves, and the forces they encounter produce alterations along the way, and new characters result. This is the stuff of excellent fiction, and Unmentionables is excellent."
--Redroom.com

"I felt enriched by the book. Definitely worth a look!"
--Not the New York Times Book Review

"Laurie Loewenstein has written a simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting insight into our world as it was a century ago."
--Carnegie-Stout Public Library

"Laurie Loewenstein brings the reader into the past, to Chautauqua assemblies, World War I France, and Midwestern small-town life. But like all good historical fiction, Unmentionables uses the past as a way to illuminate large, pertinent questions--of race and gender, of love and death, of action and consequence. Meticulously researched and exquisitely written, Unmentionables is a memorable debut."
--Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer

"Laurie Loewenstein's Unmentionables, a story of prejudice, struggle, and redemption, is compulsively readable and immensely seductive. Buffeted by the immense societal changes surrounding World War I, Loewenstein's characters--deftly drawn and as familiar to the reader as friends from childhood--fight for love, equality, and ultimately justice in a world awash in the volatile cusp of change. At once intimate and wide-ranging, Unmentionables illuminates both the triumph and cost of sacrifice, along with its hard-won rewards."
--Robin Oliveira, author of My Name Is Mary Sutter

"I loved this beautiful book, set amid the cornfields and treelined streets of a quiet Illinois farm town during the First World War. Loewenstein's ability to create a moment in history is authoritative and accurate. I was lost in that world, believed every word of it, and loved and wept with the delicately drawn characters. Love, fear, shame, regret, hope, and independence intertwine as the story moves from farm country to war-torn France and big-city Chicago, replete with anarchists and artists, suffragettes, freethinkers, and the working poor. This is a perfect book club pick, dealing with real history, real issues that are still relevant today, and real and unforgettable characters."
--Taylor M. Polites, author of The Rebel Wife

"Laurie Loewenstein's Unmentionables transports the reader to a time not that long ago--when women were not allowed to vote and racial prejudice was commonplace--when so much was different, but human nature was so much the same. Treating us to a captivating narrative that illuminates as it entertains, Loewenstein reminds us that it is the courage and integrity of individual people that changes the world."
--Beverly Donofrio, author of Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace

About the Author

Laurie Loewenstein grew up in the flatlands of western Ohio and now resides in Rochester, NY, where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872. Unmentionables is her first novel.

Kaylie Jones is the award-winning author of five novels and a memoir. She teaches writing at two MFA programs and lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Kaylie Jones Books (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1617751944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617751943
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurie Loewenstein is a fifth generation Midwesterner. Early in her career she wrote feature articles and obituaries for small daily newspapers. Her debut novel, "Unmentionables," was selected as the flagship publication of Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books. She currently lives in Rochester, NY, where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on February 5, 2014
Format: Paperback
Laurie Loewenstein's first novel, UNMENTIONABLES, launches the Kaylie Jones Books imprint of Akashic Books, and it is a fine and fascinating page-turner. Set during the years of World War I and the early years of women's suffrage, the locale shifts from small town Illinois to Chicago and even to the battlefields of France, as the plot follows the life events of several major and minor characters. The heroine is one Marian Elliott Adams, a thirty-ish independent spinster, a woman with a mission: to reform the restrictiveness of women's undergarments (the "unmentionables" of the title) in order to make them more competitive in the working world. As opening speaker for a traveling Chautauqua, Marian sweeps into Emporia with lofty and unshakeable ideas, determined to make a difference in the lives of women. Her experiences there leave her forever changed and embarked on a new, more altruistic, path, one which will take her to the Picardy region of France, as a wartime volunteer. The hero of the piece is widower Deuce Garland, Emporia's newspaper editor, who is also changed after meeting Marian. A cautious long-distance love affair ensues over the next year, as Deuce, out from under his wealthy father-in-law's thumb, begins to finally find his true voice as a reformer and a voice for the downtrodden.

Women's not-so-dainty 'unmentionables' (all together those outdated garments could weigh up to 25 pounds) are only a starting point for Loewenstein's carefully crafted story of a particular time and its customs, pastimes and prejudices. Racism and ethnic slurs take center stage for part of the story, and things turn ugly and tragic.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By D. W. Hollis on December 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
What a joy to read this first novel by a gifted author. Ms. Loewenstein captures the the era, the issues, the politics, the place and, most importantly, the people accurately and with affection. She has a sharp eye for the details that make for an entertaining and enlightening read. It is, at first, difficult to imagine a novel could be built on the issue of women's dress reform in the early 1900s. But, in Ms. Loewenstein's hands it is a natural introduction to the many other political and social issues of the day. "Unmentionables" is filled with memorable characters, especially strong, smart women, all well drawn with meaningful lives. Best of all Ms. Lowenstein knows how to tell a good story, one filled with smart dialogue, deft plotting and just the right amount of sly wit. A surprising first novel and one that prompts the question, "What's next, Ms. Lowenstein?"
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. on December 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
Recently, I'm lucky if I can get through 5 pages of a book before falling asleep at night. Not Ms. Loewenstein's book. I finished this book in one sitting. Couldn't put it down. You know you've read a good book when the characters and setting remain with you well after you've finished (and you wish the author had a hundred different books on the shelf for you to get lost in). That's this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barbara on January 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this book! When I first started reading UNMENTIONABLES, I googled one of Loewenstein’s main characters, Marian Elliot Adams, because I was certain she had to have been a real figure in history, lecturing about women’s undergarments on the Chautauqua circuit. I soon discovered that Marian’s flamboyancy, her outspokenness, even her vulnerabilities were all created in the author’s imagination. Amazing!

Loewenstein’s novel is both quiet and powerful. She deftly anchors the reader in a time when discrimination against African Americans and women was the norm, without imposing a twenty-first century sensibility on the story—not an easy task in historical fiction, but a vital one to be sure. She never judges her characters; she simply allows them to reveal themselves through masterful shifts in POV. This is the kind novel that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading, and I highly recommend it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ann McCauley on February 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I was awed by L. Lowenstein's debut novel. it seduced me on from the first page. The story flowed flawlessly from one scene to the next, even when continents apart. I learned many things about everyday American history and even WWI from this superbly researched novel. I loved how she portrayed the Chautauqua Speakers Circuit and their schedule line's dedication to reaching the masses with educational timely lectures. The WWI time frame and the women's issues combined to create a suspenseful and memorable novel.
This would be a great choice for book clubs as it deals with history and women's rights that are still relevant ...almost one hundred years later. I will definitely encourage my book club to include this on our reading list.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Aurora Lamb on December 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
Great debut by this author, the first from the Kaylie Jones imprint. As a reader, it transported me back nearly a century ago. The two main characters -- Marian and Deuce -- were beautifully developed and the beginning especially gives a good sense of place and life in small-town Illinois in the early part if the 20th century. Of particular interest also is the subplot of Helen. A good read!
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