In 70-year-old Jane Grossman’s debut thriller, Dying to Live in Palm Beach, a klatsch of aging widows support one other through thick and thin.
There’s a lot of the latter. “My characters keep up the façade of living a care-free life in Palm Beach,” says Grossman. “But just below that surface you’ll find loneliness, anxiety and fear.”
Grossman, who owned the famed Travelers Bookshop in Manhattan from 1982 to 1992, knows from Palm Beach, as one of her characters might say: Her parents, Norman and Flossy Silverman, lived there for 30 years.
“I didn’t realize I was gathering material when I took my children down there to visit their grandparents,” says Grossman. “But the more time I spent with my mother and her friends, the more I marveled at the way they supported each other while nursing all sorts of petty grievances. When one of them died, they mourned her deeply but briefly; a week later they were back to trench warfare.”
It’s the same way in Grossman’s fictional Palm Beach, where a certain widow cares genuinely for her comrades, even as she plots to bump them off. Unaware of their peril, the others in the group buoy each each other with solace — and the occasional Sol. “These women still want male companionship,” notes Grossman. “It’s about having an arm around you. It’s about human touch.”
She cackles like a Catskill comic — fitting, given the number of funny stories sprinkled through the book. “When my 46-year-old son read the book, he said, ‘I never knew Nana and her friends talk about sex so much!’
‘Of course they do!’ I told him. ‘Just because they’re not 20 doesn’t mean they’re sitting around in rocking chairs.’ ”
Neither is the author; the second installment in the series, Dying to Live in Paris, is due out next year. “The setting is completely different,” says Grossman. “And so are the jokes.”