Book Review: Florence Adler Swims Forever

Florence Adler Swims Forever, by Rachel Beanland

Florence Adler is a young woman home from college for the summer, with aspirations of swimming the English Channel.  She and her family are also Jewish.  She is living with her parents above their family bakery in Atlantic City, preparing for her channel swim by swimming in the Atlantic Ocean every day.  Florence has a strained relationship with her older sister Fannie, who is currently on hospital bed rest awaiting the birth of her second child.

When Florence drowns on her daily swim, her family is thrown into crisis mode.  Her mother Esther decides that they will keep her death a secret from Fannie, because they do not want her to lose another baby.  The family reluctantly agrees, and it becomes a stressful, twisted drama to try to keep Fannie from finding out about her sister’s death before the baby is born. 

Drawn into the drama is their house guest Anna, a 19 year old college student who escaped from Nazi Germany to live with the Adlers.  She is keeping a secret too, but is indispensable in helping the family care for Fannie’s first child Gussie while everyone else is occupied with grief. 

This is a story of family, and often well-intentioned but controversial decisions that are made in the best interest of someone else.  It makes you think about what you would do in a similar situation, and whether you would want to have a secret kept from you.  How do these kinds of secrets impact family bonds? 

Rachel Beanland tells the story with grace, weaving together the perspectives of the different characters and their motivations.  Keeping such a secret seems unthinkable (and impossible) now, in the age of expression and social media, but times were different in 1934.  People didn’t talk about things the way they do now, and women were seen as needing to be protected.  You see how each family member struggles with grief, as well as how they are touched by the developments occurring halfway across the world in Nazi Germany. 

I enjoyed the book and at the end, through the author’s note, learned that the story is based on the true story of her own great-aunt who died, and how her death was kept from her hospitalized grandmother.  Although the other pieces are fictionalized, it was an interesting story of love and loss, and the complicated ties of family.

4 stars.   

One thought on “Book Review: Florence Adler Swims Forever

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