July 2020 Indie Next List
“Florence Adler comes alive on the pages of this book, from the first page until the last. Told mainly through the perspective of her 11-year-old niece, Gussy, the characters are fully realized as sympathetic yet flawed human beings. I was drawn to all, but mostly to Florence’s mother, Esther. Esther’s fierce love for Florence and her sister, and her drive to protect them, propels her actions throughout the book, and she doesn’t allow the reader — or herself — to succumb to emotions until the end of the story. This may be the best book of the year.”
— Camille Kovach, Completely Booked, Murrysville, PA
“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.
About the Author
Rachel Beanland is the author of the novel Florence Adler Swims Forever. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and earned her MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She lives with her husband and three children in Richmond, Virginia. She has taught creative writing at the College of William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University and is the 2023–2024 Writer in Residence at the University of Richmond.
Winner of the 2020 National Jewish Book Award for Debut Fiction
-One of USA Today's "Best Books of 2020"
-A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
-Listed as one of Good Morning America's "25 Novels You'll Want to Read This Summer"
-One of Parade's "26 Best Books to Read This 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 Prize Finalist for The Great Believers
“FLORENCE ADLER SWIMS FOREVER is a riveting page-turner about characters who know how to keep a fierce secret, even when it is nearly impossible to do so.”
—De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of In West Mills
"I started reading FLORENCE ADLER SWIMS FOREVER and did not stop until its final words. Rachel Beanland so completely transports readers to the summer of 1934 in Atlantic City and a tragedy that changes the lives of one family there that I expected to smell salt air and see ocean waves crashing when I looked up again. What a bighearted novel this is. What a glorious debut."
—Ann Hood, author of The Book That Matters Most
“Rachel Beanland has written a wonderfully assured and completely engrossing first novel. From the very first page, I was completely invested in the lives of Florence, Gussie, Anna and the rest. Florence Adler Swims Forever has much to say about family, loss and all the ways we have to wonder what might have been, and it does so with great skill and a deeply humane vision. I could not recommend it more highly."
—Kevin Powers, author of National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
“Beanland has written a beautiful account of the ways love can harm as often as it heals. This is classic storytelling at its best, with a keen eye for character and a loving heart.”
—Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased
"Florence Adler Swims Forever is a tender, funny, frank look at how family and faith can frustrate us, sustain us, and keep us human.”
—Blair Hurley, author of The Devoted
“Grief may propel this story, but the overall effect is one of joy—especially at watching such an assured and dazzling debut writer at work. The Adlers are as real as your closest friends, and their tale of perseverance couldn’t be more timely. From its unforgettable opening and through the rippling current of her characters’ lives, Beanland shows a warmth and humanity that will bring readers back again and again.”
—Brian Castleberry, author of Nine Shiny Objects
“The best fiction elucidates a time, place, and people. This is it. Right here. With precise, beautiful prose and spot-on dialogue, Rachel Beanland’s debut novel, FLORENCE ADLER SWIMS FOREVER, is a flawless work of fiction that captures a flawed but big-hearted Jewish family navigating Atlantic City during the Great Depression. This beachside New Jersey town is as vivid a character as the family inhabiting it and even the most damaged characters contain glimmers of hope.”
—Michele Young-Stone, author of Above Us Only Sky
“A perfect summer read.… In less than ten pages, I became a mere subject of the audience, allowing Beanland's storytelling ability to overpower me, rather than taking the story in consciously and internally commenting…. What's remarkable is not how quickly the book hooked me, but how it held my attention during and after reading. After spending a pleasant afternoon flying through the first 96 pages, I woke up at 3 a.m. thinking about the plot. I simply couldn't put it out of my head. I finished in two days…. I felt awe.”—USA Today
"Beanland’s novel draws the reader in. The situation she describes is poignant and the characters she develops win us over with their private grief. Beanland is particularly good at conjuring 1930s Atlantic City, with its small family-owned hotels yielding to larger, more commercial palaces. The historical moment is fraught as American Jews try to save relatives in an increasingly untenable Nazi Germany. We see cruel obstacles to immigration, and the growing chasm between European Jews and their increasingly prosperous American counterparts. This is a book about the American dream. The dream is not without costs, and the dreamers are not immune to tragedy." —New York Times Book Review
"Beanland deftly weaves various historical events and themes: the rise of the Nazi regime, family secrets, the struggle between classes, religious tensions, sexuality, and familial love. Yet it works, and this novel is as close to unputdownable as they come. Based on a true story—beautifully described in the Author’s Note—Florence Adler Swims Forever is a memorable debut." —Amazon Book Review
"Beanland beautifully handles the depiction of loss and rebuilding life without a loved one, describing moments that are by turns painful and moving. The thick emotional tension will please fans of character-driven historicals." —Publishers Weekly
"Readers of Emma Straub and Curtis Sittenfeld will devour this richly drawn debut family saga based on the story of an ancestor of the author’s." —Library Journal