In 1953, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for allegedly committing espionage against the United States. In this fictionalized account of the event of the Rosenbergs, a friend and neighbor, Millie Stein, tells a gripping story of this notorious couple from her point of view.
When Millie and her husband, Ed—a man with little compassion and many secrets—move into Knickerbocker Village in 1947, she meets and becomes good friends with Ethel. But Ed’s not the only one harboring secrets. Millie’s deeply unhappy in a mostly arranged marriage to a man who cares little for her. As a result, she is drawn to her son’s therapist, Jake (who has secrets of his own) and eventually they fall in love.
When Ethel is arrested at her home, Millie is sick with fear. She has just dropped Ethel’s children off to a hateful grandmother believing Ethel would soon be picking them up. Knowing in her heart that Ethel (and probably Julius, too) is innocent, she has to believe that she will soon be released to collect her sons.
Of course, we know that never happens, and in an attempt to reach the prison to hand over evidence of another’s guilt, Millie is stopped by Jake, who wants nothing more than to protect her. In the end, the only solace she can provide is to be present for Ethel as she dies.
This novel is a perfect choice for book clubs who love history, romance, and intrigue.
The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor. Riverhead Books, 2016.