The Fortunate Ones
One very special work of art—a Chaim Soutine painting—will connect the lives and fates of two different women, generations apart, in this enthralling and transporting debut novel that moves from World War II Vienna to contemporary Los Angeles.
It is 1939 in Vienna, and as the specter of war darkens Europe, Rose Zimmer’s parents are desperate. Unable to get out of Austria, they manage to secure passage for their young daughter on a kindertransport, and send her to live with strangers in England.
Six years later, the war finally over, a grief-stricken Rose attempts to build a life for herself. Alone in London, devastated, she cannot help but try to search out one piece of her childhood: the Chaim Soutine painting her mother had cherished.
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 also 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, eventually revealing long-held secrets that hold painful truths. Spanning decades and unfolding in crystalline, atmospheric prose, The Fortunate Ones is a haunting story of longing, devastation, and forgiveness, and a deep examination of the bonds and desires that map our private histories.
Praise & Reviews
“Umansky’s richly textured and peopled novel tells an emotionally and historically complicated story with so much skill and confidence it’s hard to believe it’s her first.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Ellen Umansky’s novel, THE FORTUNATE ONES, is like the melody of a song that you can’t forget. Her marvelous, utterly human characters will stay with you. In a story that spans decades and continents, the author takes readers on a journey that both challenges and affirms our notions of love, of art, of family, and of sacrifice.”
— David Gillham, author of City of Women
“THE FORTUNATE ONES is a rich and engaging debut. Ellen Umansky skillfully transports readers on from war-torn Vienna and London to present day Los Angeles and the journey is intriguing, memorable and worthwhile.”
— Pam Jenoff, author of The Orphan’s Tale
“Umansky’s multilayered novel asks the big questions—who are we and who are the people we love? What can we, and what should we, forgive? How does history write itself on our lives and our society?—with compassion, tenderness, and a deft touch.”
–Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life
“The characters in Ellen Umansky’s beautiful novel are haunted not only by loss but by the way one loss bleeds into another and reshapes the world. They are masters of what Elizabeth Bishop called ‘the art of losing,’ but such is Umansky’s own art that she manages, with enormous skill and empathy, to make her characters finders as well. If they seldom recover what they have lost, their quest for wholeness makes THE FORTUNATE ONES a profound and moving exploration of sorrow and reconciliation.”
— Jonathan Rosen, author of Joy Comes in the Morning
“Ellen Umansky is an absurdly gifted writer, and her masterful debut is so smart, so compelling, so emotionally and intellectually and morally complex, it will make you see the world in a completely different way. I loved, loved, loved this book.”
— Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year
“THE FORTUNATE ONES is a riveting, page-turning novel that investigates the true price of art and love and history. It is both magnificent in its sweep and intimate in its telling. And the end? It will take your breath away. Three cheers for Ellen Umansky’s perfect debut.”
— Jennifer Gilmore, author of The Mothers
“In Ellen Umansky’s remarkable first novel, two women from different worlds and generations search for the same stolen painting–a Chaim Soutine portrait that becomes a talisman for each. One of Umansky’s many gifts to her lucky readers is the ability to illuminate the truly transcendent powers of art, but also its inherent shortcomings in the face of devastating loss. This is a stirring and ultimately uplifting debut.”
— Helen Schulman, author of This Beautiful Life
“With remarkable elegance and electric prose, Ellen Umansky has written a brilliant novel about a stolen painting, the Holocaust, Los Angeles, mothers and daughters, the mysterious bonds of love. I stayed up all night reading this book and it left me weeping, in awe of her gifts and, more than anything, so lucky to be alive.”
–Joanna Hershon, author of A Dual Inheritance
“On its surface, THE FORTUNATE ONES is a gripping mystery about the fate of one painting and the two very different women who’ve spent their lives mourning its loss. Lucky for us, Ellen Umansky has gone further, weaving a potent exploration of grief, guilt, desire, and forgiveness. A lush, haunting debut.”
–Anna Solomon, author of Leaving Lucy Pear