Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Beanland.
Rachel Beanland writes fiction and essays, and has recently released her debut novel. Her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction and Broad Street, among other places, and she has an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University.
With bachelor’s degrees in art history and journalism, Rachel worked in public relations and nonprofit management before focusing on writing full time. She currently lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and three children.
Her debut novel is Florence Adler Swims Forever, which we’ll be discussing here today.
In this episode Rachel and I discuss:
- How a family tragedy influenced her approach to writing her debut novel.
- Why rotating perspectives helped with secret-keeping throughout her story.
- Her experience with workshopping her novel as she wrote it.
Plus, her #1 tip for writers.
About Rachel Beanland
Rachel Beanland writes fiction and essays. Her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction and Broad Street, among other places. She has an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University and holds bachelor’s degrees in art history and journalism from the University of South Carolina. Before turning to writing full-time, Rachel worked in public relations and nonprofit management. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and three children. Florence Adler Swims Forever is her debut novel.
Florence Adler Swims Forever
Rachel Beanland’s debut novel Florence Adler Swims Forever transports us to Atlantic City, 1934.
The beaches are packed, but the crowds won’t deter Florence Adler, home from college and determined to spend her summer training to swim the English Channel. Training is a welcome respite from Florence’s family’s crowded apartment. 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.
This year, the apartment is especially full. Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy, and her seven-year-old daughter Gussie has moved in. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman, Anna, whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams.
Despite the chaos, Esther looks forward to having three generations under one roof. She 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 during one of Florence’s swim practices, 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.
At its core, Florence Adler Swims Forever is a brilliant depiction of a bygone era of the Jersey Shore, a great novel of big dreams and loss. Based on a true story of her great-great aunt, 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.
If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!
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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!