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RFM Bookshelf: “Florence Adler Swims Forever” by Rachel Beanland

RFM team members share a book they’ve enjoyed. Maybe you will, too! 

It’s a tender and delightful look at family, love, and loss.


I’m a big fan of family sagas and historical fiction, so Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland checks a lot of my boxes.

Based on the true story of her great-great aunt, Beanland has crafted a rich narrative around a tragic accident kept secret by the matriarch of the family, Esther.  

Set on the Jersey Shore in the mid-thirties, Florence Adler is home from college and determined to spend her summer training to swim the English Chanel. When Florence drowns while swimming, Esther enlists the entire family to hide the truth from her older daughter, Fannie, who is on bedrest in a maternity ward for the duration of her pregnancy. 

Fannie and Florence, though sisters, are seven years apart and not the best of friends, and this tenuous bond illustrates the ubiquitous theme of missed chances. It’s especially heartbreaking to watch it unfold from Fannie’s perspective, as she is unaware that Florence has died when vowing to bolster their broken relationship.

At its core, Florence Adler Swims Forever is a brilliant depiction of a bygone era and an engaging novel of big dreams and devastating loss. Its author, who lives in Richmond with her family, is a master of character development and storytelling. Chosen as the Barnes and Noble Book Club selection for July, it’s hard to believe this is Beanland’s debut novel. I hope she’s working on her next one because I’ll be sure to read it.


Read about Rachel Beanland’s family and her journey to publishing her first novel in Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.

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