Review originally published in Library Journal, July 2020.
The determined daughter of Jewish bakery owners in Atlantic City, Florence Adler, 20, starts the summer of 1934 swimming, as she trains for an upcoming trip to France to swim the English Channel. When the siren of the sea’s life is cut short in tragedy, Esther and Joseph keep her death quiet from their eldest daughter, Fannie, who waits out a high-risk pregnancy in the hospital. Protecting the baby becomes paramount. While Fannie’s husband Isaac swindles away funds in real estate schemes, their young daughter Gussie, unable to grasp the reasoning behind the lie, grieves the loss of her beloved aunt and misses her mother. Gussie finds comfort in Anna, a young German girl mysteriously living with the Adlers, and Stuart, Flossie’s swim coach and admirer. Stuart, a handsome lifeguard and son of the elite Covington hotel owner, begins clandestine swimming lessons with Anna, growing closer as they grieve for Florence. As the secrets threatens to spill and heartbreak blankets them, the family must unite to face a future without Florence. VERDICT: Readers of Emma Straub and Curtis Sittenfeld will devour this richly drawn, debut family saga based on the true story of the Beanland’s ancestor.