The Book Cellar
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Tonight we share the evening with Chris Mazza (Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls) and Elise Blackwell (An Unfinished Score). Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls: Would her life have been better if she'd had sex with her supervisor when she was 23? Hester Smith is a woman who always played life near the sidelines-until she decides to rescue a teenage Mexican prostitute. She's up against the border sex trade in Southern California that works like a drug cartel, where the smuggled contraband is teenage girls forced to work as prostitutes in undeveloped canyons just outside suburbia. Law enforcement agencies know it happens, as do investigative journalists, yet the illegal sex trade continues to exist. Most people, comfortable in their homes only miles away, express some brand of shock in the moment they hear about it-and then they go on with their lives, assured there's nothing they can do.
While she prepares for the rescue, Hester discovers that the man with whom she almost had an affair-her mentor when she was a 23 year-old student teacher-had been simultaneously having a sexual relationship with a 16 year-old student. Hester mines her own memories of the would-be affair and ultimately tracks down the former 16 year-old. When these two women with a shared scandal in their pasts confront one another, the meeting coincides with the last step necessary to rescue the teenage prostitute Hester has tried to protect. It is only this mayhem that allows Hester to finally take ownership of her decisions and regrets.
An Unfinished Score: After her lover—a famous conductor—dies unexpectedly, a professional
musician is blackmailed into completing the score for his unfinished viola concerto. As Suzanne struggles to keep her double life a secret from her husband, from her best friend, and from the other members of her quartet, she is consumed by memories of a rich love affair saturated with music. Increasingly manipulated by her lover’s widow and tormented by the concerto’s many layers, Suzanne realizes she may lose everything she’s spent her life working for.
A story of love, loss, sex, class, and betrayal, this psychologically compelling novel explores the ways that artists’ lives and work interact, the nature of relationships among women as friends and competitors, and what it means to make a life of art.