Elyssa Friedland is the author of the new novel Last Summer at the Golden Hotel. Her other books include The Floating Feldmans. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Washington Post and McSweeney's, and she teaches creative writing at Yale University. She lives in New York City.
Q: What inspired you to write Last Summer at the Golden Hotel?
A: I knew I wanted to follow up on my previous book, The Floating Feldmans, about an estranged family reunited on a cruise ship for the grandmother's 70th birthday.
I discovered how much I love writing multiple point-of-view books, especially involving complicated family relationships. My favorite part was finding the humor in difficult situations.
To expand on these themes, I decided to write a book once again about family, but this time choosing to focus on two families that are best friends and co-own a business. This enabled me to explore the dynamics of friendship as well as the complications of family businesses.
And the setting was the best part -- I love Dirty Dancing and I spent time in the Catskills as a child and knew it was the perfect place to set my story.
Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: I visited the Catskills as a child with my family and returned for book research. I also read several nonfiction books, watched the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, A Walk on the Moon, Welcome to Kutsher's, and Dirty Dancing (for the 20th time).
I also had the luxury of interviewing Bunny Grossinger, an amazing, incredible woman who is a member of the famous family who owned Grossinger's Resort, possibly the most famous of the "Borscht Belt" hotels.
Q: What do you think the novel says about family businesses?
A: That they are extremely complicated, especially as the families get larger. Once siblings get married and start having children, there is a lot of competition and judgment that naturally arises. There can also be suspicion about honest business dealings, especially when not everyone is involved in management.
That said, my husband works in a family business and it runs beautifully and keeps his family closely connected.
Q: What are some of your favorite books?
A: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. And so many more!!!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a novel coming out called Most Likely in September 2022 about a group of friends reunited at their 25th high school reunion. They aren't exactly where they expected to be...and they're ready to make some changes. Expect a book about friendship, family and what it means to have it all.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have a picture book coming out in fall 2022 called The Museum of Lost Teeth. Ever wonder what happens to teeth after they fall out? You're about to find out!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Elyssa Friedland.