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Vera By Carol Edgarian Summary

Meet Vera Johnson, fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the quiet domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Disregarding societal norms and prejudices, Vera begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors, navigating through the disaster together.

“A character-driven novel about family, power, and loyalty, (San Francisco Chronicle), Vera brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels. This “brilliantly conceived and beautifully realized” (Booklist, starred review) tale of improbable outcomes and alliances takes hold from the first page, with remarkable scenes of devastation, renewal, and joy. Vera celebrates the audacious fortitude of its young heroine, who discovers an unexpected strength in unprecedented times.

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian’s novels include Vera, Three Stages of Amazement,and Rise the Euphrates. Her essays and articles regularly appear in national magazines and anthologies, and she is editor of The Writer’s Life: Intimate Thoughts on Work, Love, Inspiration, and Fame. She is cofounder and editor of Narrative, a leading digital publisher of fiction, poetry, essays and art, and Narrative in the Schools, which provides free reading and writing resources to students and teachers in nineteen countries. She lives in San Francisco with her family.

Vera By Carol Edgarian Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Being a bastard and almost orphan, I never took for granted the trappings of home. My fifteenth birthday fell on a Monday that year, 1906. In nine days, the world I knew would be gone. The house, the neighborhood, our city, gone.

I am the only one left to tell it.

It was springtime. First thing before breakfast, my sister, Pie, and I made our lady loops—to Fort Mason and back. We were two girls exercising one unruly dog.

Pie walked slowly, having just the one speed, her hat and parasol canted at a fetching angle. She was eighteen and this was her moment. All of Morie’s friends said so. “Your daughter Pie is grace in her bones,” they said. And it was true: Pie carried that silk net high above her head, a queen holding aloft her fluttery crown.

Now, grace was a word Morie’s friends never hung on me. I walked fast, talked fast, scowled. I carried the stick of my parasol hard on my shoulder, with all the delicacy of a miner carting a shovel. The morning sun blasted my cheeks, and anyone fool enough to come up behind me risked getting his eye poked. We were sisters by arrangement, not blood, and though Pie was superior in most ways, I was the boss and that’s how we’d go.

As we turned from the house, our dog Rogue, a noble-hearted Rottweiler mix, ran into the alley after a bird. Rogue had been acting queerly all morning, flashing me the whites of his eyes, even when I called to him with a knob of cheese in my hand. It was as if he knew what was coming, as if he could feel the rumbling beneath his paws.

Slow down!” Pie begged, knowing I wouldn’t heel either. I had what Morie—Pie’s mother, the widow who raised me—called willful unhearing. The welts on my legs from Morie’s most recent whacking with the boar-bristle brush proved it. With every step my skirt hit where I hurt, and with every step I went faster. I would have flown like that bird if I could.

The day was unusually mild, fogless. You’d have to be a grim widow not to feel the lark in it. We lived on bustling Francisco Street, close to the canneries and piers, where the air was always cool and briny. Ours wasn’t a fancy block, working-class. As we headed west, to our right sat the glorious bay—and beyond the bay, the Marin Headlands, green this time of year.

We were on Easter break, and free to walk the long way. Pie had arranged to meet up with her best friend, Eugenie Schmitz, at the corner of Van Ness Avenue. Pie was eager to tell Eugenie her big news. I was just glad to be out of the house.

Make a wish,” Pie called, pumping her arms to keep up, “for your birthday.

I glanced over my shoulder and rolled my eyes, pretending I didn’t care. “Why,” I said, “when it never comes true?

My wish was urgent, the same every year. It made me cross to have to think it again. Instead I looked to my left, to where San Francisco rose on tiptoe. Seeing her in her morning whites always made me feel better. My city was young, bold, having burned to the ground five times and five times come back richer and more brazen. To know her was to hold in your heart the up-downness of things. Her curves and hollows, her extremes. Her windy peaks and mini-climates. Her beauty, her trembling. Her greed.

At Saint Dominic’s, the nuns taught us that we were lucky to live in San Francisco, our city being an elusive place, easy to love, hard to keep—especially for those who don’t deserve her.

They taught us about the Spanish conquistadors, who sailed for years, fighting tides and hurricanes, scurvy and venereal disease in search of her; they starved themselves on hardtack, their ships battered, their tongues blistered from wind and a scarcity of water, yet still they managed to rape and pillage, and therefore, as God’s punishment, they were standing on the wrong side of the boat when they passed the fogbound Golden Gate. All that trouble, all those years, and they missed the pearl—not once but twice. “Careful of handsome fools,” warned the sisters.

If I were a conquistador,” I said to Pie, “I wouldn’t miss what was right in front of my long Spanish nose.

Not everyone is as vigilant as you,” my sister observed.

The truth about Pie, and I loved her no less for this, was that she didn’t question things, and I questioned too much. “Then pox on the Spaniards too,” I said, just to hear her laugh. And because she was laughing, I considered it fair to ask, “Pie?”


I know you want to tell Eugenie, but tell me first: What happened last night with James?

She stopped in her tracks and groaned. “You mean you heard.

I heard. After supper, when James O’Neill knocked on the back door and asked Pie to step outside, I put my ear to the glass. When I couldn’t make out their whispers, I cracked the window. In the light of no moon, James O’Neill took Pie in his arms and promised this: in a year, if—he said if twice—if his store turned a profit, then he would ask her to marry him. The noodle went on to explain that as the sole support for his mother and sisters, he had to put them first; he’d gone into debt to open his notions shop, selling thread, tobacco, and buttons on Market Street; and, oh, he loved her.

He loved Pie. He said it in that order, three things she already knew. As I knew, from the look on Pie’s face when she came inside, that James O’Neill had given her a fraction of what she’d wished for; then, to add insult, he put love at the rump. How many folks take the meagerness offered and decide it’s their due? How many girls accept a whacking with the boar-bristle brush and do nothing to stop it from ever happening again?

I don’t understand,” I pressed. “He proposed to propose?

Don’t put it that way,” Pie begged. “Please, V. James may not be bold but he’s good.

Deadly earnest,” I agreed. “But what does it mean?

It means I have to wait—” Pie faltered, tears in her eyes. “Some more…

“Oh, Pie.”

“And it means now we have no chance of paying off Morie’s debt to the Haj.”

We both sank at the thought.

Arthur Volosky was his real name, but Morie called him the Haj—Swedish for shark. The Haj ran the numbers racket in our part of town—among the cannery workers and fishermen and regular folks like Morie. The Haj took bets; he charged exorbitant sums on the money he loaned. Our Morie was a devout churchgoer, but when she drank she gambled. Doesn’t everyone have at least two opposing natures warring inside them? I think so. One way or another, God or the Haj, Morie hedged her bets that she might one day live among the rich angels.

“You shouldn’t have been snooping,” Pie scolded. “James wouldn’t like it. Not one bit.” She lifted her chin, gathering herself. “Oh, drats. We’re late. We’ll miss Eugenie.” Pie started to walk on. “Aren’t you coming?” She squinted, shifting her focus to how she might fix me. “Sun’s out. Put up your umbrella.

“Pie, Morie didn’t hit me because of my umbrella.”

No.” Pie hung her head. “Not only that.

Not only that.

Morie had tried to stop drinking, since the doctor warned her of her heart. But when James O’Neill offered Pie half a cup of nothing, Morie filled her own cup with aquavit. And another and another.

I suppose I gave Morie a hundred reasons to hit me: my skirt was soiled, my tongue was loose. I reminded her of her lost pride. And this: my skin turned copper when I was too stubborn to shield it from the sun. If my skin was dark, while Morie and Pie were fair and pink, the world would know that I wasn’t Morie’s daughter and that our family was a sham.

A “dark affinity” lived inside me that Morie’s boar-bristle brush couldn’t beat out. So Morie’s friends suggested, often to my face, as if there is only one black and one white ink with which to draw the world—one nasty, one good—and that is the dull thing society would make of a girl. Early on, the nuns at school granted Pie beauty and gave me the booby prize of wits. I was fine with wits.

Same birthday wish?” Pie asked, taking hold of my hand.

More or less.

Her face clouded when she heard that. “Why not something new, now that you’re fifteen and a young lady.

Oh, hell, Pie, I will never be a young lady.

I loved Pie; I loved her hard. But I would never believe that a man or a wish could save us. Having come from desire, I knew too much about desire. I knew San Francisco was a whore’s daughter, same as me. If Pie and I were to rise, it would be up to me.



“How much is Morie in for to the Haj?”

She was about to tell me when a hired hack charged down the street and captured our attention. Our neighbor Mr. de Bretteville, who spent all day idling in front of his house while his wife gave massages to men inside, leaped from his chair.

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1501157531, 978-1501157530
Posted onMarch 1, 2022
Page Count352 pages
AuthorCarol Edgarian

Vera By Carol Edgarian PDF Book Free Download - HUB PDF

Meet Vera Johnson, fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the quiet domestic life of the family paid to raise her.


Author: Carol Edgarian

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