Early one morning in November, 1987, six-year-old Lisa Steinberg was rushed to a Manhattan hospital. Her breathing had stopped, apparently a consequence of an injury to the head. She died three days later. Her adoptive father, disbarred attorney Joel Steinberg, and Steinberg’s companion, Hedda Nussbaum, a former editor of children’s books, were arrested for murder.
Reading the facts in black and white in their newspapers, the American public was aghast. How could such a thing happen? Why hadn’t someone stopped them, taken the child away, before it was too late? Because the fact without reason were difficult to accept, they were somehow unreal. WAVERLY PLACE takes these basic facts and creates the characters, dialogue, and everyday events to explain them. It is fiction which lends credence to fact. In this, her first novel, Susan Brownmiller continues to probe the vital issues of social responsibility that she examined from another angle in her best-selling study AGAINST OUR WILL: MEN, WOMEN AND RAPE.
The story she tells is engrossing and the characters believable, but WAVERLY PLACE is a disturbing book. The reader is left with an afterimage of the “haunting face of a spirited little girl with red hair,” the same image which “impelled” Brownmiller to write the novel in the first place.