Trust is a unique novel about perception v reality, wealth v greed, gender equity and the complexity of relationships.
The story is told in three segments. The first segment is a separate novel within the novel by fictitious author Harold Vanner. Vanner tells the story of Benjamin Rask, the ancestor of an extremely wealthy New York City tobacco family. “Because he had enjoyed almost every advantage since birth, one of the few privileges denied to Benjamin Rask was that of a heroic rise.” Benjamin has no interest in the tobacco business and soon discovers a passion for investing. He becomes incredibly wealthy and builds a limestone beaux arts mansion on Fifth Avenue. Enter Helen Brevoort.
Helen’s family “were an old Albany family whose fortunes had not kept up with their name.” The family leaves America in an attempt to avoid their bad fortunes and goes to Europe where they move around from place to place, staying with other Americans. Helen’s father’s mental condition rapidly deteriorates and her mother checks him into a sanatorium in Switzerland (Dr. Bally’s Medico-Mechanic Institute at Bad Pfafers). Her father wanders off never to be heard from again.
Helen is befriended by an employee of Benjamin Rask and ultimately Helen and her mother return to New York City. Helen is introduced to Benjamin and they marry. Helen uses some of Benjamin’s wealth to support philanthropic causes in the arts. She holds small private concerts in her home and sponsors authors and musicians. When the stock market crashes, Benjamin profits and his reputation is viewed somewhat askance. In fact, he is blamed for causing the crash.
As a result of the controversy over Benjamin’s actions, musicians and performers start to decline Helen’s invitations and her mental health begins to deteriorate. Ultimately, Benjamin has her admitted to Medico-Mechanic Institute at Bad Pfafers in Switzerland for her psychological issues. The story does not end well.
The second part of the novel is the unpublished memoir of Andrew Bevel. Andrew Bevel is the wealthy financier upon whose life Benjamin Rask is based. The memoir is effectively written by Ida Portenza, who is hired by Bevel to assist him in telling his story. Bevel has lost his wife, Mildred, and is furious over the Vanner novel. He uses his wealth to ensure that the Vanner novel is destroyed and never seen again. He wants Ida to help him tell his true story and Mildred’s true story. Mildred did not end her life due to mental health issues and he wants the record set straight. He presents himself as civically minded and always interested in the greater good. He presents Mildred as a quiet unassuming woman who requires his assistance with her philanthropic goals.
In the third part of the novel, Ida tells her story. Between the second and third parts of the novel we learn portions of the true story. Bevel’s memoir is not published and years later, Ida acquires access to some of Mildred’s notebooks. Ida shares the content of the notebooks. Mildred’s notebooks tell the real story!
The novel is brilliant in concept and execution. The story is a lot of fun and tells the reader quite a bit about the early twentieth century and the challenges for women during that time. Definitely give this a read. You can reserve Trust at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.