When Sue and Dan Glassman moved into their house in Rockaway, Queens, they cared more about escaping their cramped Tribeca apartment than the house itself. The family was so desperate for more room, Sue even finally gave into her father-in-law’s demand that she convert to Judaism so that he’d help out with the purchase. As her oldest daughter puts it, she “sold her soul for a sea view and a few extra bathrooms.” Then there’s the fact that the house is in need of major repair, is known around town as “The Murder House,” and might be haunted.
On the weekend of Sue’s conversion party, the house’s previous owner, ninety-year-old Rose, escapes from her assisted living facility and shows up at the door. And while the house is nothing special to the Glassmans, Rose – who once literally got away with murder there – is not quite ready to part with it. In fact, suitcase in tow, she seems intent on moving back in. Meanwhile, the Glassmans’ neighbor Tim (who originally appeared in Eisenstadt’s debut FROM ROCKAWAY) is also drawn into their orbit. Before long, the situation in the house begins to spin out of control. SWELL is a deft exploration of family, relationships, and the perils of living in a world rife with uncertainty. By turns insightful and grimly hilarious, this kaleidoscope-like novel presents a world forever shifting under the feet of both readers and characters until even the most outrageous events begin to seem reasonable.
Jill Eisenstadt is the author of the novel FROM ROCKAWAY (Knopf, 1987/Vintage Contemporaries, 1988), published to wide praise when she was a 24-year-old Bennington College graduate, and KISS OUT (Knopf, 1991). Her essays, articles, short fiction and poetry have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Vogue, Elle, Bomb, The Best of The New York Times “City Section” and Best American Sex Writing. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Michael Drinkard.