A novel by Georgia Kassov Cates
I SIT BESIDE MY LONELY FIRE
AND PRAY FOR WISDOM YET—
FOR CALMNESS TO REMEMBER OR COURAGE TO FORGET
FROM “REMEMBER OR FORGET”
CHARLES HAMILTON AIIDE, 1830–1906
November 1949 ‒ Brooklyn Naval Yard
The blast of the ship’s horn made her ears ache. Alexandra Georgia Kassov was four years old and three feet high. Her view was limited to shoes, coat hems and suitcases. She clutched the thick, furry sleeve of her mother’s Persian lamb coat. It was black with an exaggerated collar and cuffs of buttery soft mink.
Sonia Kassov, carrying a large carpetbag as well as a purse and a briefcase, her little girl clinging to her right sleeve, was doing her best to move through the dense crowd on Dock #6 at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.
Sonia glanced over her shoulder. “Mama!” she called to a frail, elderly woman who was struggling to keep up with her. “Please stay close to us. I can’t see you when you are behind me.”
“I try! I try!” the woman wailed.
Alexandra kept tripping because Sonia was unable to maneuver them both between the dozens of piles of luggage. Grandma Genya, who had insisted on accompanying them to the
gangplank, kept slowing down to catch her breath or to comment to a stranger about the noise, the cold wind or the confusion. Sonia had tried to say good-bye to her at the taxi, but Genya had begun to sob, and so the inevitable was postponed at the expense of Sonia’s frayed nerves.
Finally they reached a platform where documents were being processed. Alexandra had managed to haul herself up the high step so as not to impede her mother’s progress. Genya was not as successful. She stumbled and would have fallen if not for a teenaged boy with an athlete’s reflexes who managed to throw his arms around the helpless woman, grasping her and holding on until she had regained her balance.
What was left of Sonia’s patience dissolved as she watched her mother’s near catastrophe. Alexandra could not keep hold of her mother’s coat sleeve as bag and briefcase were dropped and Sonia pivoted around to face Genya. Speaking in Russian, she firmly announced that it was time to say good-bye.
“Alexandra, promise me! You make your mommy send me a telegram as soon as you arrive,” pleaded the anguished old woman.
“Kiss your grandmother,” Sonia commanded.
Alexandra tried to put her arms up to be embraced, but her head was grabbed and banged against the belt buckle of her grandma’s coat as the woman frantically sobbed.
“My baby! My baby! How will I live without my beloved baby, Alexandra!”
“Enough, Mama!” said Sonia. And then, a bit softer, “I’ve told you over and over, we’ll be away only two years or less. Not a lifetime. We’ll send many pictures, I promise. And I’ll wire you as soon as we get there. Now please, leave the dock. This place is bedlam.”
About The Book
Author: Joan Destino
Genre: Psychological Thriller
“Who was she trying to fool? Herself? A little late for that. She had to win; her survival depended on it.”
Do you have what it takes to lose it all? Find out in Joan Destino’s stunning debut novel, “River Card.”
Georgia Kassov Cates is a business woman, a wife, a mother…and a gambling addict. Desperate to recoup a devastating string of losses, she risks it all for one last game- a game that’s abruptly halted when the Las Vegas casino succumbs to a freak blackout.
Georgia meets some fellow patrons of the Las Vegas casino, including the wealthy Melanie Nallis, a woman haunted by her horrific childhood; Zivah Koski, an enigmatic elderly holocaust survivor; Phillip Vance, a billionaire casino developer; and Milt Braverman, a professional poker player.
As they get to know each other, a connection is slowly revealed: postwar Germany, a time and place that is reflected in” River Card’s novel-within-a-novel, “Alexandra.”
Alternating between the opulence and depravity of 1940s Germany, and the glamor and baseness of 1990s Las Vegas, “River Card” reflects Georgia’s mounting fears-both past and present-as she plays one last hand…
As the daughter of an Army Officer, Joan Destino traveled throughout her childhood, living in many parts of the U.S. as well as Germany. After high school and college in New England, she taught kindergarten in Boston while her husband attended law school. In the early seventies she moved to the Los Angeles area, raising her family in San Marino. She participated in the UCLA Writers’ Program for several years, culminating with several semesters in their Master Novel Writing Class. After playingTournament Bridge for years, shebegan playing casino poker in the mid-eighties. She bought a second home in Las Vegas in the mid-nineties and moved there permanently when her husband retired in 2004. Joan plays both cash and tournament poker including the World Series of Poker at the Rio Casino.