Head­er image cred­it­ed to Argos’­Dad.

Jamie Bren­ner, author of The For­ev­er Sum­mer, is a guest blog­ger for The Jew­ish Book Coun­cil as a part of the Vis­it­ing Scribes series.

A read­er recent­ly asked why my lat­est nov­els are set in coastal towns and I said, I guess I want­ed to take the Jews to the beach.” I was half jok­ing, but there is some truth to the sen­ti­ment. I love beach books — sto­ries about fam­i­ly and love set in beau­ti­ful lit­tle towns by the ocean. And while I read them vora­cious­ly, the truth is, there is very lit­tle in the beach town expe­ri­ence depict­ed in these books that I rec­og­nize. It’s not just that there are few, if any, Jews in the sto­ries. It’s more that the nov­els often cen­ter around a charm­ing Cape Cod or Out­er Banks cot­tage that has been in the fam­i­ly for gen­er­a­tions, and that’s alien to me.

Grow­ing up in sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia, I spent my sum­mers at the Jer­sey Shore. My grand­par­ents did not have a beach cot­tage, they had a con­do on the board­walk. It was the same for my friends and their grand­par­ents. From the ter­races, we had views of the beach and of the new casi­nos sprout­ing up in Atlantic City. As teenagers, we would meet in the morn­ings at the beach, then have lunch at one of the cheeses­teak and hoagie” places a few blocks from the water. At night, while our par­ents hit the casi­nos, we con­gre­gat­ed in the lob­by of one of the build­ings until a man­ag­er shooed us upstairs to our own apart­ments. It was idyl­lic to us, but far from the clas­sic back­drop of the books I grew to love.

In my new nov­el, The For­ev­er Sum­mer, I chose Province­town, Mass­a­chu­setts as the set­ting because it’s beau­ti­ful, remote, and uncon­ven­tion­al in every way. I real­ize now I wasn’t ready to write about the Jer­sey Shore, but I did feel com­pelled to write about a place that veered at least slight­ly from the more typ­i­cal set­tings in beach nov­els. The For­ev­er Sum­mer is the sto­ry of two young women — one Jew­ish, one not — who dis­cov­er they are half sis­ters and trav­el to Province­town to meet the grand­moth­er they nev­er knew they shared. The char­ac­ters in this sto­ry not only find new fam­i­ly, they inher­it a true sense of belong­ing in their grandmother’s quirky beach town.

For my next book, The Hus­band Hour (com­ing spring 2018), I returned to Long­port, New Jer­sey. While the stretch of towns from Vent­nor to Long­port have gone through changes since my sum­mers in the 1980s, I found the char­ac­ter of the shore very much intact. The board­walk, the cheeses­teaks places, the ice cream par­lors, the eclec­tic land­marks like Lucy the Ele­phant, are still there exact­ly as I remem­bered them though my grand­par­ents and their con­do are long gone. In The Hus­band Hour, the Jer­sey Shore is both the fam­i­ly retreat and the heroine’s escape from the prob­lems of her adult life. For her, as for me, the beach does not rep­re­sent a gen­er­a­tions-old fam­i­ly lega­cy. Instead, it offers the mem­o­ry of a sim­pler moment in time.

Some read­ers have asked me if I will set future books in the same town, the way some authors return to places like Nan­tuck­et or Hilton Head. My answer is no. While I don’t write Jew­ish” books, I can’t help but tell sto­ries through a Jew­ish lens. Maybe it’s because I come from a wan­der­ing peo­ple, but I pre­fer to explore a dif­fer­ent town in each of my nov­els. Maybe, some day, one of them will feel like home. But for now, I’m just hap­py for a view of the ocean.

Jamie Bren­ner was born and raised in sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia but has called New York City her home for the past twen­ty years. She grad­u­at­ed from George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty with a degree in lit­er­a­ture and spent her career in pub­lish­ing before becom­ing an author her­self. Her books include The Gin Lovers, The Wed­ding Sis­ters and her next nov­el, The Hus­band Hour, will pub­lish in April 2018. She lives in Man­hat­tan with her hus­band and two daughters.