"The perfect summer read" (USA TODAY) begins with a shocking tragedy that results in three generations of the Adler family grappling with heartbreak, romance, and the weight of family secrets across the course of one summer."Rachel Beanland is a writer of uncommon wit and wisdom, with a sharp and empathetic eye for character. She'll win you over in the most old fashioned of ways: She simply tells a hell of a story." --Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Finalist for The Great Believers Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to "America's Playground" and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home. Now Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams. Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe but some matters are beyond her control: there's Fannie's risky pregnancy--not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac--and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies, seems to be in love with Florence. When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth--at least until Fannie's baby is born--and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies, bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal. Based on a true story and told in the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan's Saints for All Occasions and Anita Diamant's The Boston Girl, Beanland's family saga is a breathtaking portrait of just how far we will go to in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure--and even thrive--after tragedy.
- ISBN-13: 9781982132460
- ISBN-10: 1982132469
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publish Date: July 2020
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.05 pounds
- Page Count: 320
Florence Adler Swims Forever
Rachel Beanland’s debut novel opens in 1934 Atlantic City. It’s a blue-sky June day, and most of the Adler family is enjoying the beach: 7-year-old Gussie; Gussie’s grandparents Esther and Joseph; Anna, the young German Jewish woman the family has taken in; and Florence, Esther and Joseph’s younger daughter, a Wellesley College student and star swimmer. Florence is such a competitive swimmer that she’s training to swim the English Channel later that summer. One family member who is not on the beach is Fannie, Florence’s older sister and Gussie’s mom, who is pregnant and in the hospital on bed rest, determined not to lose this baby as she lost the last one.
By the end of the day, the Adler family’s world has changed forever. Florence inexplicably drowns, and Esther decides that the family must keep this secret from Fannie, for fear that Fannie will go into early labor. There will be no funeral, no sitting shiva, no outer mourning for Florence.
But that’s not the only secret in this family novel. Each character has reasons to hide something important, which in turn affects their own happiness and relationships. The novel rotates through the perspectives of Gussie, Esther, Joseph, Anna, Fannie, Fannie’s husband and Florence’s devoted young swim coach, Stuart. It’s an ambitious balancing act that occasionally requires a little double-checking as to whose point of view we’re following. As the novel moves forward through the summer, the stress of secrets increases the pressure on each of the characters.
Florence Adler Swims Forever beautifully brings to life Atlantic City in the 1930s, offering the sights, sounds and smells of the beach and the boardwalk, as well as the daily life of Atlantic City’s Jewish community. It also foreshadows, through refugee Anna’s plight, the coming catastrophe of the Holocaust.
Beanland loosely based the novel on the story of her great-great-aunt Florence, who, like Florence Adler, was a competitive swimmer who drowned off the coast of Atlantic City. It’s a worthy tribute and a satisfying historical family drama.