Thirty years after publishing From Rockaway, Jill Eisenstadt returns with a darkly funny new work of fiction that exposes a city and their family when they are most vulnerable. Swell introduces you to the Glassman family, who chooses to relocate after being at Ground Zero during 9/11. The family choses Rockaway, thinking they would be safe there. The catch? Their new ramshackle beachfront house in Rockaway, Queens is haunted! The Glassman's are rocked when ninety-year-old Rose shows up after escaping an assisted living facility, and insisted she moves back in. Rose's return causes a collective nervous breakdown for the family in this novel that will charm and surprise you on every page! Eisenstadt explores the theme of safety in Swell and how important our quest to feel safe is, even though it is often merely an illusion.
Eisenstadt used some characters from her previous novel, From Rockaway, which wasn't her intention at all before she began to write. She created a character who was a fireman, was writing from his point of view for about a year when she realized that she was actually writing the character of Tim, from From Rockaway! The author had fun doing this because she was able to add the characters from Tim's world into her new book as well.
Wondering where the catchy title came from? Eisenstadt commented, "It was difficult at first to come up with a title because I grappled with the idea of whether to use 'Rockaway or not'. I thought it would be more commercial if so. I also didn't want to make my new book seem too much like a sequel. A Swell is an ocean wave system that is brought up from a stormy place far away, not a local wind. I tought it was a good metaphor for people about how we carry our bad energy from the past into the present and its the same thing with this family, carrying this trauma with them."
You may be wondering, why the thirty year gap between Eisenstadt's two novels? She was busy writing a lot of non fiction, teaching writing, and raising three kids! The author was not happy with what she was writing fiction-wise, and felt in her heart to return to what she started decades earlier. She realized that she could come back to Rockaway, and kicked open a metaphorical door in her brain.
Swell is a real understanding of the people of Rockaway and the struggles they went through decades earlier laced with a pitch-perfect narrative voice and plenty of humor! It's parallels between comedy and dark, which makes Swell even more moving. Get your hands on this read ASAP!