Rachel Beanland, Florence Adler Swims Forever
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 bed rest 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 in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after a tragedy.
Rachel Beanland is an MFA candidate in creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. She holds bachelor’s degrees in art history and journalism from the University of South Carolina and lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and three children.
Susan Jane Gillman, Donna Has Left the Building
45-year-old Donna Koczynski is a former “bad Jewish girl”— a failed punk rocker and recovering alcoholic. Now, she’s a wise-aleck wife and mother moldering in the Detroit suburbs. That is until she returns home one day to the surprise of a lifetime. As her world implodes, she sets off on an epic road trip to reclaim everything she believes she's sacrificed since her wild youth: great friendship, passionate love, and her art. Yet as she careens across America, nothing turns out as planned. Ultimately, she finds herself on a remote Greek island instead, embroiled in the Syrian refugee crisis. There she comes face to face with the legacy and responsibilities of her Jewish heritage. She becomes humbled — and part of a much greater team committed to “Tikkun Olam.” Irresistibly funny, whip-smart, and surprisingly powerful, Donna Has Left the Building is a novel that defies all expectations. It’s an unforgettable tale about spiritual awakening and what it really means to love in today’s big, broken, beautiful world.
Susan Jane Gilman is the bestselling author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, Kiss My Tiara, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, and the novel The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. She has provided commentary for NPR and written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Ms. Magazine, among others.
Joanna Hershon, St. Ivo
Over the course of a weekend, two couples reckon with the long-hidden secrets that have shaped their families, in a charged, poignant novel of motherhood and friendship. Unwinding like a suspense novel, Joanna Hershon's St. Ivo is a powerful investigation into the meaning of choice and family, whether we ever know the people closest to us, and how, when someone goes missing from our lives, we can ever let them go.
Joanna Hershon is the author of the novels Swimming, The Outside of August, The German Bride, and A Dual Inheritance. Her writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, One Story, Virginia Quarterly Review, and two literary anthologies, Brooklyn Was Mine and Freud's Blind Spot. She is an adjunct assistant professor in the Creative Writing Department at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, their twin sons, and their daughter.