Belva Plain captured readers' hearts with her first novel, Evergreen, which Delacorte published more than 30 years ago. It topped the New York Times best-seller list for 41 weeks and aired as an NBC-TV miniseries. In total, more than 20 of her books have been New York Times best sellers.
Before becoming a novelist, Belva Plain wrote short stories for many major magazines, but taking care of a husband and three children did not give her the time to concentrate on the novel she had always wanted to write. When she looked back and said she didn't have the time, she felt as though she had been making excuses. In retrospect, she said, I didn't make the time. But, she reminded us, during the era that she was raising her family, women were supposed to concentrate only on their children. Today 30 million copies of her books are in print. A Barnard College graduate who majored in history, Belva Plain enjoyed a wonderful marriage of more than 40 years to Irving Plain, an ophthalmologist. Widowed for more than 25 years, Ms. Plain continued to reside in New Jersey, where she and her husband had raised their family and which was still home to her nearby children and grandchildren until her death in October 2010.
Writing with her customary fervor but with uneven results, Plain ( Whispers ) again investigates the familiar territory of complex family relationships. This time she examines a situation right out of recent headlines: the switching of babies at birth. Margaret and Arthur Crawfield have just buried their son Peter, dead of a genetic disorder, and must come to grips with the fact that DNA testing proved conclusively that he could not have been their biological child. The parents of the dead boy, Bud and Laura Rice, are quickly traced, and it is shown that their robust son Tom is indeed the Crawfield's. But--and the irony is heavily emphasized--Tom and his father are both racists, admirers of the Klan and the Nazi party. The Crawfields are Jewish. The novel is at its best, and most moving, as the two families meet and try to sort out the events that have devastated them all. Bud evades the issue by total denial. Depressed and antagonistic, Tom emerges as one of the few fully realized characters in this schematic rendering. Unfortunately, most of the other characters are stereotypes: the loyal black family retainer; the saintly mothers; a smarmy right-wing politician. A massive deus ex machina tidies up potentially troublesome complications. Yet Plain knows how to wring the emotions from her examinations of family dynamics, and her audience will undoubtedly find this latest effort appealing. (May)
"Fascinating...Belva Plain...has crafted a clever and intriguing tale of prejudice and human emotion."--East Tennessee Catholic