Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland is a family saga that is told in a unique way. The book is divided into three parts: June 1934, July 1934, and August 1934. The summer begins with Florence Adler returning home from Wellesley College to prepare herself to swim the English Channel. Then there is a shocking tragedy. The Adler family, along with a young German refugee and a swim coach/lifeguard spend the rest of the summer dealing with grief, loyalty, a risky pregnancy, romance, a bad marriage, and the weight of keeping a secret.
Each chapter tells the story from the perspective of the seven characters, in the exact same order in each of the three sections:
- Gussie Feldman, the young daughter of Fannie and Isaac Feldman. Gussie is often wise beyond her years as she deals with the weight of all that is going on around her.
- Esther Adler is Florence and Fannie’s mother and the wife of Joseph. Esther is determined to keep the tragedy a secret from her oldest daughter Fannie. It is her gumption that makes the story work so well.
- Fannie Adler Feldman’s story follows her mother’s in each section. Fannie is unhappily married to Isaac Feldman. She is hospitalized during the three months because she is dealing with a high-risk pregnancy. She is frustrated that her family is being so distant during her hospitalization.
- Joseph Adler is a successful businessman who has grown his bakery into a thriving business. Joseph fiercely loves his family and goes to great lengths to protect them.
- Isaac Feldman is Fannie’s ne’er-to-well husband. While he loves Gussie, he is remote and completely selfish. His true colors come to light during this tragedy.
- Stuart Williams is the only non-Jewish character. He was the swim coach who encouraged Florence Adler to swim the English Channel. It is obvious he is in love with Florence. His family owns a very nice hotel in Atlantic City, but Stuart refuses to have anything to do with the business, which discriminates against Jews and Blacks. Stuart spends his summers as a lifeguard on the Atlantic City Beaches.
- Anna is a young German Jewish woman who is being sponsored by Joseph to attend college in the United States just as the Nazi party is coming to power in Germany. Esther does not like the fact that Anna is the daughter of Joseph’s childhood friend, Inez. Anna is determined to get her mother and step-father to the safety of America before there is no way out of Germany.
Rachel Beanland tells this story in a compassionate manner. Each character’s story is important. This wonderful novel leaves the reader wondering how she or he would have reacted under the same circumstances. It is interesting to note that the story is based upon an event that happened in Rachel’s family.
5-stars. Book Club Recommended. Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for my advanced reader copy of Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. The expected publication date is July 7, 2020. I recommend you reserve your copy now!