To Galveston, an island in the Gulf of Mexico, comes Claire Becker, a woman who has married a man she does not love and is living out a lie destined to affect many people on a peaceful, shadowed street named Avenue L. For here, shuttered porches and quiet gentilities mask private deceptions that one day spill over into public places: a colossal political struggle aimed at breaking the monopoly that threatens to wipe out the city's whole financial base.
Then, fifteen years afterward, the same deceits again surface to touch the life of another person on Avenue L. This time they come to menace beautiful Serena Garret, an innocent girl caught in the summer of her prime, who must flee Galveston when the enormities of those lies are almost revealed...then are silenced, seemingly forever, by an act of vengeance and a murder.
But years later, a self-willed daughter of a Houston oil man comes across an old carpetbag and is compelled to begin a journey of discovery that finally exposes the lies which for so long haunted a street in Galveston; and a young woman is at last made free.
Galveston is a story of people whose lives shaped-- and were inevitably shaped by-- the success and failure of a city itself-- a story that runs strangely parallel to the intriguing history of this island of lost dreams.
Excerpt from GALVESTON:
--from Claire--March 1, 1877--April 4, 1886
The breeze glides gently across the porch and winds around me, then passes on. The only sound I hear is the squeezing wicker of my rocking chair, and I am alone.
Now let me tell you how it was this morning, how inevitable the tragedy which occurred next door and how innocent I remain of causing it, regardless of how well it seems to suit my purposes.
--from Serena--June 1, 1899--September 8, 1899
How silent is a street in morning, before the houses awaken.
I can look out across Avenue L and see a light here and there, in upstairs windows mostly: husbands rising to go to work, wives padding around sleepily in house robes, the smells of coffee making and breakfast cooking soon to rise in the air. It is a day like any other for everyone on the block except me, and although in a few minutes I, too, will softly make my way down the stairs and put the coffee on for Dad, I will only be going through the motions of routine, trying not to betray myself by serving oatmeal with shaky hand or answering morning-time questions too quickly. "How did you sleep, Nan? Going to the beach today? Paper come yet?"
Six hours, six hours.
--from Willa--December 20, 1920--December 26, 1920
I've traveled almost a thousand miles in the past week, yet this fifteen-minute drive between Union Station and Heights Boulevard seems the longest journey of all. There may be nothing at its end except an empty house with a For Sale sign posted out front. And what would the buyer find? A rambling house with fresh paint job, maybe even some furniture for sale inside? An undercroft that once frightened a girl so as she descended into it, she almost tripped over her own feet, scurrying up to the entrance door at the top?...
What would you have done in my place?
There I am, about to sign away the rest of my life to a man I'm not even sure I love when I happen to find this Godforsaken-looking carpetbag that I've an odd feeling I have seen before. And when I look inside and touch the material of the nightgown lying on top, my memory is like an arrow hitting target: within the space of a few moments, I relive the catastrophe which followed my first discovery of the bag, years before, and I know then there must have been some reason why it was so important I not see the bag that first time or ever again.
I pull out the gown, and discover next a pair of dancing shoes, and finally, as though hidden away all these years just for me, a picture of two people I assume to be my real parents, two entertainment programs, brittle with age, and two addresses written in childish scrawl on a slip of paper, for a boy I never heard of. I know at once to whom the bag belonged, and that I have been the victim of an elaborate charade about my real beginnings, and the long suppressed hope rises in me again: my mother may yet be alive and missing me.