Saferstein’s debut collection of short stories, letters and journal entries chronicles the story of the historic Hollywood Beach Hotel in Hollywood, Fla.
The hotel (now the Hollywood Beach Resort) has a storied past; in its 87-year history, it has undergone numerous transformations—from a glamorous beach retreat for the wealthy to a World War II–naval-training center for American soldiers to a Bible college for evangelical Christians. Saferstein attempts to trace the history of the hotel through a series of fictional letters, journal entries and short stories, each from the perspective of an occupant of room 732 during a specific incarnation of the hotel’s past. Saferstein’s unrelated narrators range widely—a discontented 1960s housewife, a senior naval-training officer in World War II, a women’s rights advocate of the 1970s, among others—and share a theme of motherhood. (Saferstein mentions in her author’s notes that she was inspired to focus on this theme in each story due to the death of her mother.) It’s clear that she did her research before writing; each chapter abounds with accurate historical details indicating the period in which it is set, e.g., during the 1940s, “First restaurant we went to had two big signs over its two doors. One said WHITES ONLY, and the other said COLORED ONLY.” Some sections sabotage the dramatic tension, however, by including abundantly obvious information. And while Saferstein’s concept is clever, the individual stories (perhaps due to their diarylike nature) lack plotting and do more telling than showing.
A good conceit with passable execution.