Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg’s debut novel, EDEN (SheWritesPress) is inspired from her own personal childhood journals. It’s the story of the wealthy multi-generational Meister family between the years 1920-2000, when the United States experienced seismic social, technical and economic tipping points.
Becca Meister Fitzpatrick, wife, mother and grandmother has been the anchor encouraging family members to return every summer to the Rhode Island, oceanfront estate, “Eden.” “Eden,” which Becca’s parents built for the family, is the biblical word for paradise and there are biblical undertones throughout the book, which add to the flavor and complexity of the novel.
It starts in the 1920’s, when patriarch, Bernard, changes the spelling of his name, arrives at Yale, able to pass so he can maneuver his way into society. He marries, Sadie, a woman outside his faith which causes scandal, but nothing wealth can’t eliminate.
Now in her 70’s, Becca has learned her recently deceased husband, has lost the family’s nest egg and “Eden” may have to be sold. It’s the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend and Becca has to share the news with the family, including her three brothers who each have vested interests in “Eden,” but don’t share her love.
The novel alternates between past and present and includes actual historical references, such as the hurricane of 1938. EDEN also includes episodes of how women were “banished” to “hospitals” for post-partum depression, alcoholism and experiencing difficult pregnancies. Blasberg fluidly highlights society as it changes over eight-decades.
While reading EDEN, I was reminded of J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel, MAINE (2011). Both are set in upper class, summer enclaves, which help focus on the family dysfunction, but there, the similarities stop. As Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
That’s why we love reading novels about family’s, their ups and downs, particularly their problems, because they’re never the same – but rich or poor, we’ve all got them.
EDEN is a gem of a novel and I’m quite surprised it’s Blasberg’s debut. I look forward to her future work.
By the way, Jeanne includes a flow chart of the characters and their relationships, which is helpful if you get a bit mixed up. There are a lot of characters to keep straight. I referred to it several times.
Jeanne Blasberg is a voracious observer of human nature and has kept a journal since childhood. She has been known to stare at strangers on more than one occasion to the preeminent professor of retail and wrote case studies and business articles on all sorts of topics on everything that has to do with…shopping.
A firm believer that you are never too old to change course or topics (in truth, she’s not a big shopper), Jeanne enrolled at Grub Street, one of the country’s great creative writing centers, where she turned her attention to memoir and later fiction, inspired by her childhood journal. EDEN is her debut novel.
Now deep into her second novel, Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. When not writing, Jeanne can be found playing squash, skiing, or taking in the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay, and sometimes simply staring at interesting characters doing uninteresting things.
I wanted to share this after reading Jeanne’s website. Jeanne’s a pretty serious squash player. She’s highly ranked and has won two national championships. She says it helps build “mental toughness” and adds to a “satisfying writing life.”
To connect with Jeanne, check out her website http://www.jeanneblasberg.com
Thanks to author Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, we have one copy of EDEN to give away. Just tell us your plans for the July 4th weekend. We’ll announce a winner after the Holiday. Good luck!