I discovered Belva Plain’s novels right away. Although I’d not heard of her, I recognized a master novelist. Her first novel, “Evergreen,” published in 1978, spent 41 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list in hardcover and another 20 in paperback.
She wrote more than 20 bestselling novels over several decades, an achievement she began working toward only after her children grew up and she became a grandmother. In longhand, she wrote on a yellow pad, creating epic novels of family and forgiveness that were adored by her fans.
“Evergreen” follows the story of Anna, a feisty, red-headed Jewish immigrant girl from Poland in turn-of-the-century New York, whose family saga continues through several decades and three more books. In this first novel, Anna is torn between the love and ambitions of two men.
Those who loved her said that Ms. Plain was a country girl at heart. She spent her childhood summers in the family’s home in New Canaan, Conn., where she learned to milk cows and frolicked with her dog.
Critics weren’t kind to Belva Plain. One wrote that her books were “fat with plot and sentiment, thin in nearly every other way.” Such opinions did not stop millions from enjoying her books, often described as “big, cozy entertaining reads,” Ms. Plain saw nothing wrong with being entertaining. She once said even geniuses entertained.
A quote from Belva Plain: “I got sick of reading the same old story, told by Jewish writers, of the same old stereotypes—the possessive mothers, the worn-out fathers, all the rest of the neurotic rebellious unhappy self-hating tribe. I wanted to write a different novel about Jews—a truer one.” She wrote about things that mattered most—family and friendship.
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