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Extended Audio Sample The First Desire: A Novel, by Nancy Reisman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (106 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Nancy Reisman Narrator: Bernadette Dunne Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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When Sadie looks out her window and sees her brother standing on the front lawn she knows he can’t bring good news. Fidgeting over coffee with sugar and cream he explains: their sister is gone. Three days earlier Goldie left to go shopping and she has not returned. With Goldie’s disappearance as the catalyst, The First Desire takes us deep into the life of the Cohen family and Buffalo, New York, from the Great Depression to the years immediately following World War II. Shifting perspectives from siblings Sadie, Jo, Goldie, and Irving we learn of the secrets they have managed to keep hidden—and of Lillian, the beautiful woman their father took as a lover while his wife was dying. In this astonishing novel Reisman brings to life the love, grief, and desires that ultimately bind one family together.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Nancy Reisman has written a book in which the sentences are so lush, the characters are so vivid, and the story is so compelling, I felt I had stepped inside the world she created and had taken up residence. I want to tell you how much I loved it there. The First Desire is not a book to be merely read. It is a book to be lived.”

    Ann Patchett, New York Times author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto

  • “Reisman’s hypnotic prose makes her…characters live. And her sympathy and wealth of detail make the Cohens’ world our own: specific, inescapably flawed, unpredictably meaningful, and very, very real.”


  • “A book of rhythms and reveries…Rich in atmosphere…The First Desire is a mystery story, left unsolved because the mystery is identity itself.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Accomplished…Reisman’s sumptuous prose, and her canny knowledge of the corrosive ways an average family can come apart, make The First Desire a lovely, absorbing companion.”

    Entertainment Weekly (reader’s choice)

  • “A superb new writer…Reisman, whose sensually charged, often outright stunning style strongly evokes Virginia Woolf…proves herself a rare master of internal drama, able to isolate the moment that effects a sea change within a lifetime of compromise.”


  • “A continuing testament to the paradoxical ease with which family ties unravel…Intensely affecting and thought-provoking.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “A debut of luminous, distinctive quality…This is a writer quietly taking her own bold course, and to travel with her as she does is a joy.”

    Boston Globe

  • “A triumph…[Reisman] proves herself Virginia Woolf’s equal in sketching how interior vistas can collide with exterior limits in women’s lives. The First Desire is a marvelous testament to how family can both sustain and destroy us, a delicate dance through the family minefields, written in language both limpid and wise…We will not have room to say enough [about] the wonder of Reisman’s prose.”

    Detroit Free Press

  • “Intense and moving…Aside from the grace of the writing, The First Desire astonishes most in the intimacy it grants us with five fully realized characters.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • “Haunting…Reisman’s genius [is having] produced a book that generates its own world and holds the reader captive, willingly, to its landscape. Reisman creates this miracle through the power of her writing.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • One of the 2004 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Cathann403 | 7/29/2013

    " Beautiful, sad, tender. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Diane Howard | 5/29/2013

    " A really great book. It held my interest right from the start; wondering what happened to the missing sister, Goldie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Sara | 11/15/2012

    " I read this in 2006 and absolutely loved it. The language, the secrets, the slow accretion of life . . . am now listening to the audiobook. Looking forward to Reisman's next book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Alexis | 9/5/2012

    " 3 1/2 stars. Really good & very well- written. "

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