Jenna Blum is a New York Times and number one international bestselling author of the novels Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. Blum’s most recent title, The Lost Family (Harper) was published in 2018.
The Lost Family (Harper) creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s. Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by a grief he cannot name, a frustrated wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born. Spanning three cinematic decades, The Lost Family is a charming, funny, and elegantly bittersweet study of the repercussions of loss and love.
A dynamic presence on the lecture circuit, Blum travels across the globe to speak to audeinces at universities, libraries, literary events, and book clubs. Blum earned her M.A. in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she taught creative writing and journalism and was the fiction editor for AGNI Literary Magazine. From 1993 – 1997, Blum interviewed Holocaust survivors for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. She has taught fiction and master novel workshops at Grub Street Writers since the school’s founding in 1997.
Currently she resides in Boston, Massachusetts.
Praise for Jenna Blum...
“At Adventures by the Book, our mission is to connect readers with authors and their books through interesting, unique, and adventurous events and travels, so it is like gold for us when we work with someone like Jenna Blum who can make our events and travels a smashing success. Jenna possesses that rare trifecta of not only being a talented writer but also of being an engaging speaker and one who knows how to intimately connect with her readers. In 2017, she honored us by participating as our featured author on a Germany Adventure by the Book, in which we traveled with sixteen of her reading fans to Bavaria, Germany, to recreate her inspiration, research, and the story behind Those Who Save Us. We had ten days to watch her in action, and not only did she charm the pants off of our group, but she delighted local bookshop owners, fellow tourists, and pretty much every local with whom we crossed paths. And she learned enough of the language in that short amount of time to delight all. She is smart, sassy, funny, brilliant, genuine, and engaging. I couldn't recommend her highly enough to for public speaking opportunities.”
--Susan McBeth, Founder and CEO, Adventures by the Book, San Diego, CA
“Jenna Blum spoke at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX to commemorate Kristallnacht on November 8, 2018, as part of her book tour for The Lost Family. Despite the serious subject matter of her book, her speech was electrifying, energetic and downright delightful. Ms. Blum has the capacity to entertain and to educate her audience, keeping us engaged at a level where we enjoy learning and responding to her joyful creativity. Her rare and exceptional gift had us all wanting to read, or even re-read her current book, and wanting to go back and read her earlier novels. (I did and I suspect others did as well.) Many attendees complimented us on our choice of speakers; we look forward to hosting Jenna Blum for other occasions in our future programming.”
--Miriam Kalman Friedman, Ph.D., Chair, Adult Education Committee, Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, TX
“Jenna is knowledgeable, intelligent, and accessible as a speaker to any audience lucky enough to listen to her. I have been present on numerous occasions when she has spoken and you could hear a pin drop in the room as audiences were intent on enjoying her every word! She has a way of presenting her ideas in living color. Jenna is warm, engaging, humorous, and always professional...and I’d like to add adorable!”
--Sarajane Giddings, Event Hostess, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
"Jenna Blum is an utter rockstar of an author. She commands a room with bursting humor, warmth, writerly wisdom, and an unforgettable fearlessness. When she spoke as our keynote in 2018, our audience jumped to their feet in applause, inspired by her vision and wit. Blum is consistently among our most popular and beloved speakers-- a true treat for any audience that cares about writing, books, and urgent lessons of history. Any event is ridiculously lucky to have her."
--Sonya Larson, Conference Director, Muse & Marketplace, Grub Street Writers
“We were so incredibly fortunate here in Milwaukee to have Jenna Blum present to the Women's Speaker Series not just once, but twice, over the years! Our audience was riveted both times a while Jenna spoke about her work, as she is such an eloquent, intelligent, and passionate speaker. We were all truly impressed with how dedicated she is to fascinating historical themes and to her craft. And then we all had so much fun chatting with her afterward, as she has such a warm personality to boot. We of course hope to host her yet again in the future!”
--Margy Stratton, Founder, Women's Speaker Series at Lynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee
“Jenna spoke at our Book and Author Luncheon for the Wolfeboro Public Library major fundraiser in 2016. She spoke to 360 avid readers for herself and our second author, who was in a car accident and couldn't attend. Jenna was fantastic. She was scheduled for twenty minutes and easily filled in the next hour with humor, teaching and intriguing stories. Everyone was sorry she didn't go on longer. I can't wait for her new book to come out! Hopefully she will come back to us!!!!!”
-- Nancy Ghirardini, President, Friends of Wolfeboro Library, NH
“As chair of the Beth El Temple Visiting Author Series I want to recommend our most recent guest, Jenna Blum, author of The Lost Family. We host many current, well-known writers and our series has become very popular. Some presenters have been interesting; others a little too academic. We were expecting ‘routine’ for ‘An Evening with Jenna Blum this past December, but what we got was ‘brilliant.’ During her hour-long presentation she truly dazzled us.
In her introduction we learned the story-behind-the-story, as well as some personal history. She asked if we wanted her to read a section of the book (we did) and then she provided insight and anecdotes on the book’s characters and talked candidly about her writing process. She was funny, clever, entertaining and honest. She liked the audience and let us know it. There was a definite connection, and we kept the conversation going well past the allotted time.
In the days following Jenna’s presentation, I received many emails letting me know how enjoyable the evening was. So, not only was it an incredible event, but it boosted the popularity of our Visiting Author Series. (always good for ticket sales!). Jenna is remarkable company. I encourage any organization or panel or round table to include her if you want an interesting and well-rounded event. You’ll be surprised how much better your program will turn out!”
--Susan Silver Cohen, Chair, Beth El Congregation, Harrisburg, PA
Praise for The Lost Family:
“The devastation wrought by the Holocaust haunts a chef and his second family. Blum's (The Stormchasers, 2010, etc.) third novel is all about the occasionally dire consequences of seemingly innocuous choices. It has three sections, told successively from the third-person vantage point of New York chef Peter, his supermodel wife, June, and their teenage daughter, Elsbeth. Peter, a German-Jewish émigré and a survivor of Auschwitz, deeply regrets not having heeded warnings to get his parents, wife, and twin daughters out of Germany before it was too late. In the United States, he throws himself into running his restaurant, Masha's, named after his wife, who disappeared, along with their daughters, during a Nazi roundup. Although Masha's gains a modicum of acclaim (kudos from Craig Claiborne and regular patronage by Walter Cronkite), it ultimately falls victim to a clash between Peter and his wealthy cousin, Sol, his primary investor and only living relative. June, 19 years Peter's junior, marries him on impulse and gives up her career, although her fame was approaching that of Twiggy. She grows frustrated trying to pierce Peter's adamantine reserve and rebels with "women's lib" consciousness-raising sessions and an affair with a Vietnam vet. She's on the verge of leaving the marriage when Peter suffers a heart attack and must give up work. Elsbeth deals with weight issues, bulimia, her constant comparison of her looks with her mother's, her father's sudden decline, and her infatuation with a roué photographer in the Mapplethorpe mold. One of the principal pleasures here is the accurate period window dressing of mid-1960s New York City, '70s New Jersey, and the '80s Manhattan punk world. The writing, evocative yet unassuming, conveys the interiority of the characters, even the minor ones, elevating them beyond the stereotypical. The emphasis here is on not on Nazi atrocities, which are only hinted at, but on surviving the banality of domineering relatives, bad marital choices, suburban mores, and body-image woes. An unsentimental, richly detailed study of loss and its legacy.”
--KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW
“Nazis came for them on a Saturday—the day Peter Raskin lost his wife, two little girls, and his freedom. Peter’s nightmare of being rounded up haunts him even 40 years later. He can’t talk about Auschwitz or his family, although he owns a successful Manhattan restaurant, Masha’s, named after his lost wife, and he cooks obsessively, with a gleam in his eye. Eventually, he meets the lovely June Bouquet; they marry and have a child, Elsbeth, and life looks good. But the shadow of Peter’s wartime experiences affects his new family in subtle ways, eroding the bond between them. In the three sections of this gripping novel, Blum, author of Those Who Save Us (2004), displays her keen eye for character with an intense focus on Peter, June, and Elsbeth over decades of silence, transferred emotions, and interactions with others. Blum dramatizes the lingering effects of the war through the intertwining stories of families past and present, personalizing the themes of survivor guilt and shame but also injecting surprising glimpses of humor and hope. Each unforgettable character in this deeply moving novel brings new meaning to the familiar phrase “never forget.” Elie Wiesel’s A Mad Desire to Dance (2009) and Michael Chabon’s Moonglow (2016) also share similar themes, depth of character, and a sense of hope in the face of tragic loss.”
-- BOOKLIST, STARRED REVIEW
“The Holocaust haunts Peter Rashkin. He owns a popular restaurant in 1965 New York; however, he hides the tattoo on his arm and the scars o nhis body and will not speak about his first wife, Masha, and twin daughters who were Hitler’s victims while he survived. But when he meets a young model named June, Peter lowers his guard and begins a courtship. Yet over the next 20 years, his secret guilt destroys the new life he tries ot make with June and their daughter Elsbeth. Blum (Those Who Save Us) again skillfully explores the endless nightmares and pain of Holocaust survivors. Her sensitive depiction of Peter and his new family demonstrates how love doesn’t always conquer all. She also shows how being kept in the dark about family secrets may lead to poor decisions on the part of those who want to know what happened but are unable to disover the truth. This exquisitely crafted and compassionate novel offers a lesson in honesty, regardless of how difficult the truth might be. It will offer plenty of discussion for book groups.”
--LIBRARY JOURNAL, STARRED REVIEW
“Blum (Those Who Save Us) examines the second family of a Holocaust survivor—his restless, ex-supermodel wife and their troubled teenage daughter—in this crisp vision of how seemingly random choices test love, loyalty, and survival. Peter is haunted by his failure to save his wife and twin daughters from death in Nazi Germany. Years later, in 1965, he rises to success as a celebrated chef in New York City with the help of illegal funds from cousin Sol. June gives up her career as a model to marry Peter and later raise their only child, Elsbeth, but then begins to doubt her suburban life—and the emotionally distant Peter—amid the women’s liberation movement in 1975. Elsbeth, though pampered and privileged, throws herself into the drug-fueled, punk-populated New York City art world in 1985 to find the recognition and love she craves, risking her life through starvation to be the muse of photographer Julian. Blum avoids the sap of happy endings and easy resolutions in this perfect encapsulation of the changing times and turbulence of mid- and late-20th-century America. Her story of a family struggling to tell the truth to one another—and to themselves—is bolstered by memorable characters, to whom readers will become attached.”
--PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, STARRED REVIEW
“Wrenching and chilling…poignant…undeniably compelling.”
--the BOSTON GLOBE
“A Holocaust survivor turned Manhattan chef salves the pain of losing his wife and daughters by spending hours fussing over påtés and latkes. Then a bright-eyed fashion model swoops in offering what he never dreamed he'd find again: happiness. Blum plumbs the depths of loss and love in this exquisite page-turner.”
-- PEOPLE Magazine
“The Holocaust haunts two generations of a glamorous New York City family in this easily digested read from Jenna Blum. Peter is a German Holocaust survivor who’s dedicated his life to running Masha, an Upper East Side restaurant named for the wife he lost in the war. When he meets June he thinks he can finally love again, but his refusal to examine his psychological scars only begets more trauma for his new wife and their teenage daughter, Elsbeth. Readers are granted rich descriptions of decadent foods and New York nightlife through the ages, alongside brutal descriptions of self-sabotage. The novel spans three decades, from the Sixties to the Eighties, but Blum’s sense of tension and mystery drive the plot forward at a delightful pace. She takes on the difficult task of rendering generational trauma visible, and does it with such humor and empathy, you can’t help but be swept along for the ride.”
--The VILLAGE VOICE