Evergreen follows Anna Friedman, a beautiful, red-headed Polish Jew, who comes to America alone as a teenager in the early 1900s.
Anna works in a factory, learns English, reads and studies until she’s able to get work as a maid in a home of an upper crust banking family. There she falls for the son, Paul Werner.
Anna marries another poor immigrant, Joseph Friedman, who has little use for formal education but a great capacity for learning. He sees a fortune to be made in building.
When times get rough, Joseph sends Anna to appeal to the Werners for a loan. Anna gets the loan and a child by Paul.
The rest of the novel follows Anna and the next three generations of her family up to the 1970s.
Evergreen feels more like linked short stories than a novel. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Bella Plain was a popular short story writer before Evergreen, her first novel.
Plain’s characters are complex enough for a short story, but not for a novel. She doesn’t show characters growing; she only shows they have changed.
History, too, is relegated to scene changes. Even the holocaust in Evergreen appears antiseptic.
Evergreen is decent entertainment, free of lurid detail, but totally forgettable.
Evergreen by Bella Plain
Delacorte Press, c1978. 593 p.
1978 bestseller #6. My grade: B-
© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni