MANHATTAN, NY—Nestled in the southeast corner of New York State, Manhattan is an old-fashioned sort of community, the kind of place where people still live in close proximity to one another and walk to the corner store to pick up the daily paper.
So when the people of this close-knit burg on the Hudson River found out that two of their own, Abe and Myra Saunders, were divorcing after 23 years of marriage, disbelief was the prevailing response.
"I was stunned when I heard that somebody in our town was getting divorced," said David Cutler, 37, who said he doesn't know the Saunderses but lives just six blocks from their apartment on 77th Street. "This just isn't the kind of thing that normally goes on around here."
"My first reaction was total denial—I simply didn't think it was possible," said Andrea Zimmer, 34, a lifelong resident of the town's sleepy little Upper West Side neighborhood. "Maybe things like this are considered commonplace in other towns, but not here in Manhattan."
Even more shocking to local residents were the circumstances surrounding the couple's breakup. For the past year and a half, Abe, 48, a tax attorney with the local savings-and-loan Chase Manhattan Bank, has been having a affair with Lisette Solomon, a 26-year-old co-worker.
Myra, 47, a buyer for Bloomingdale's, a local clothing shop, did not find out about her husband's infidelity until Jan. 21, when he confessed and requested a divorce in order to move in with his mistress.
"Abe's scandalous affair with a younger woman is the talk of the town," said Elliott Sharperson, a writer for the local paper, The New York Times. "From the post office to the library to the butcher shop, pretty much anywhere you go around here, that's all anyone's talking about."
"Can you imagine? A tax attorney secretly sleeping with a woman 22 years his junior?" said Manhattan resident Edna Rudolph. "I don't know how Abe can ever expect to walk down the street in this town again without feeling like everyone's staring at him. The shame he must feel."