Florence Adler Swims Forever
by Rachel Beanland
Discussion Questions:
1. Florence Adler Swims Forever opens with Florence's death and ends with the birth of Fannie's baby. In what ways do life and death frame this novel?

2. Early on, Gussie says that Florence always spoke to her like both a "beloved child and a trusted grown-up" (4). Apart from Florence, how do the other adults in Gussie's life treat her? Do you think it was right to send her to live with Esther for the summer, or appropriate to make her keep such a big secret from her mother?

4. In the early 1930s, Atlantic City was seen as the "Jewish Riviera" of the East Coast. In what ways do you see Jewish culture celebrated within this community? In what ways do you see it under threat?

5. Describe Fannie and Florence's relationship. Do they have roles that they fall into? What do you think is gained by a seven-year age gap? What complications are introduced?

6. When Florence dies, Esther's first instinct is to keep Florence's death a secret to protect Fannie and her pregnancy. Discuss how others respond to this request. If you were in each character's shoes, do you think you could have kept this secret?

7. When Joseph and Stuart go to see Florence's ship sail out of New York, Joseph explains that "you give your children every possible chance" in life (188). What chances do the parents in this book give their children? Do these chances come with sacrifice? What chances seem to carry more weight - Anna's parents sending her away (financial), the Adlers supporting Florence's dreams (emotional), or Fannie staying on bed rest so her child can be healthy (physical)? Is one any more important than another?

8. When Anna visits Fannie at the hospital and reads to her from Tender Is the Night, she tells her that "we're all beholden to someone" (228). Who are the various characters "beholden" to in this novel? Are they willingly so, or are they bound by structures that seem unshakeable - like marriage, faith, or secrets?

9. Fannie is devastated by the death of her infant son, Hyram. Her mother, Esther, doesn't understand her grief, saying he doesn't need a gravestone because Fannie "didn't need a place to go and wallow" (33). What does it mean to Fannie to be pregnant again? How do these two mothers - Fannie and Esther - handle the death of their respective children?

10. The rise of the Nazi party and anti-Semitism in Germany, which had monumental effects on the lives of Jewish people in Europe leading into World War II, is a lingering threat throughout the book. Did anything surprise you about the experiences of Anna and her family? How would you have felt in their position?

11. How do you feel about Anna and Stuart's love story? What do they each bring to the relationship? Why do you think they are drawn to each other?

12. Near the end of the novel, Joseph strikes a deal with Isaac to entice him to leave the family forever. What do you think of Isaac's decision? Do you think if he stayed that he could have changed? Or was he meant to pursue something different with his life?

13. The novel ends without the reader learning of Fannie's reaction to the news of Florence's death and Isaac's departure. Based on what you know about Fannie, how do you think she took the news? What do you think her life looks like after these revelations? How would you have reacted if put in the same position?

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