Passions Of The Grande Dame Hotel: A Novel set at The Breakers of Palm Beach
by Deby Eisenberg

Published: 2022-08-31T00:0
Paperback : 340 pages
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The fascinating saga of Palm Beach's Breakers Hotel includes its conversion to a World War II army hospital, where over a dozen babies were born. Passions and Fires will forever change the lives of three women, including a Russian-Jewish immigrant, whose ...

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The fascinating saga of Palm Beach's Breakers Hotel includes its conversion to a World War II army hospital, where over a dozen babies were born. Passions and Fires will forever change the lives of three women, including a Russian-Jewish immigrant, whose heartrending journeys weave through the timeline of the resort. It is February 1942, just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Addie, the daughter of the assistant manager of the most beautiful resort in America, lives at The Breakers Hotel. Walking the beach, she and her friend, Natalie, are bemoaning their world becoming devoid of its young men, as they are called to serve. And then the girls witness an explosion. German submarines have begun torpedoing Allied merchant ships right off the Atlantic shore. Soon, the area becomes one of the most active military centers in the nation, with thousands of soldiers stationed right at their doorstep in Palm Beach County.

In February 1975, Manhattanite Beth Morgan is distraught over a broken engagement. Her society mother dismisses her problem and insists that Beth accompany her to Florida. When they join an historical hotel tour while waiting for their suite at The Breakers, Beth’s mother has a strange reaction to the handsome docent’s words, and Beth begins to wonder if that is why they have come. Could she have been one of the babies born at the Breakers Hotel? From the story of Addie’s alluring mother, Rebecca, a Russian Jewish immigrant in the 1920s, whose fiancé disappears when she follows him to America, to the tragedy of Natalie’s boyfriend in the war, it is a tale of love and loss, separations and reunions, guilt and absolution. It is a story of the American Dream and the power of passion.

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After their first night at the Breakers Hotel, while Beth Morgan was still hugging the most comfortable pillow she had ever possessed, the generous waves of her auburn hair splayed across the pillowcase, her mother awoke with her usual cough and complained of a bad headache. She had no energy to go down to the breakfast buffet. And so, Beth followed her mother’s directive and ordered room service. By the time the tray came, although she considered waking her mother so she might enjoy her first cup of coffee while it was still hot, Beth saw she had drifted back to sleep and just let her be. Beth emerged from a long shower as the phone rang. She grabbed the hotel’s luscious bathrobe and put it on. “Hello. Is Mrs. Morgan available?”

“Who is calling?” Beth asked, thinking there was a familiarity to the voice.

“Yes, sorry, sorry for no introduction,” the male caller said, with seemingly flustered hesitations to his speech. Beth had no idea that just the sound of her voice had unnerved him. But then he calmed down.

“Sorry,” he repeated. “My name is Bear.” He paused, hoping she would remember him, but she voiced no recognition. “I was the hotel docent you met yesterday during my midmorning tour. Mrs. Morgan had given me her card and asked me to call her room.” Beth pulled on the belt of her robe to fix her appearance, as if she could actually be seen by the caller.

“Oh yes, Bear, I do remember. We met yesterday. I’m her daughter. I’m sorry, but she’s still sleeping. She had just asked me to order room service and the tray arrived, but she fell back asleep.” Beth self-consciously adjusted her robe again, as the belt loosened. “But I do think she wanted to talk to you.” She paused for a moment, deciding if she would share something with him, and then she proceeded. “Seriously, though, I don’t know what it is about. I was actually having my own crisis back in New York, but she kind of swept that away, dismissively, and arranged for a quick flight here.” Beth stopped herself from talking. She couldn’t believe she was sharing these details with a stranger who happened to call. She covered her eyes with her hand and sat on the vanity chair, just shaking her head.

Some moments later, she heard the man’s voice on the receiver. “Miss Morgan,” he said. There was a slight pause, “Miss Morgan, are you still there?”

“Oh my God. I am so sorry. I can’t believe I’m even telling you all this. I’m so embarrassed.”

“Well, maybe you just need someone to talk to.” He waited for her answer, but when she didn’t respond, he just continued. “So, let it be me, since I am conveniently on the other end of the phone line.” She thought about it for a minute. There was something about his voice that put her at ease. “Well . . . ‘Bear,’ is it?”

“Yes, Bear.”

“Okay, well, thanks. This is crazy.” She paused for a deep breath. “Honestly, although I am delighted to be in this beautiful hotel, I am not sure why we’re here. It’s kind of hard for me to explain. Something is really bothering my mother. I don’t know if it’s physical or emotional or a combination of the two. It’s just that it seemed like it was more than my mother’s spur of the moment decision to come here. It’s like something has drawn her here. And she wanted to make sure I accompanied her. And, well, she’s . . . well, rather – shall we just say – convincing.”

“Rather hard to say ‘no’ to,” Bear agreed. “I think I experienced that yesterday.” She heard him give a slight chuckle and wondered if he found her too annoying. But he continued, good-naturedly, “And thus, this call to her, as directed.”

“There you go, Bear. Welcome to my world of directives.”

“Miss Morgan . . .”

“Please, Bear. Call me Beth.”

“Well, Beth,” he said. “If your mother is still sleeping, perhaps you would like to join me at our most beautiful breakfast buffet. And then you can tell me a little more about your world.”

“Well, I’m not quite dressed yet – I just don’t know.”

“Then let me answer for you . . . ‘Bear, thanks so much for the invite. I’d be delighted to join you, but I need fifteen minutes.’” She did not reply to him immediately. He was already regretting being too forward, but he could not help himself. “Twenty minutes then. I will knock on your door and escort you to the dining room. How does that sound?” view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

What are some of the challenges of the immigrant experience as portrayed in the novel?

What was Rebecca’s role in the novel and how did you feel about her choices?

How many different scenarios in the book, justified the title of Passions of the Grande Dame Hotel?

How did Addie grow as a person in the novel to fulfill her mother’s prophesy that she would be the most important one?

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