Author With Local Roots Making Stops in Beach Haven

Jun 12, 2019
Photo by: Supplied Photo

Edith Wharton’s perceptive view of high society meets Elin Hilderbrand’s intricate island relationships among women in Susannah Marren’s latest novel, A Palm Beach Wife. Marren, the pen name of gender and relationship expert Susan Shapiro Barash, has drawn a riveting portrait of spousal loyalty, female rivalry and the complicated mother-daughter bond.

Barash will be in Beach Haven on Saturday, June 22, to do a sidewalk signing at Kapler’s Pharmacy  beginning at 9 a.m., and then at Tuckers Tavern starting at 6 p.m. The appearances represent a homecoming, as the author grew up in the borough and is a 1972 graduate of Southern Regional High School.

According to the story line, Faith Harrison is the quintessential Palm Beach woman. She is a captivating beauty, ideal wife to Edward, her elegant, wealthy husband, and perfect mother to Katherine, her college-age daughter. In a town where affluence, privilege and glamour rule, Faith is respected and adored by women of all ages. At Faith’s couture designer consignment shop on famed Worth Avenue, Katherine affixes to every item – Birkin bags, Hermes scarves, Buccellati earrings and Judith Leiber minaudieures – snippets of fables and fairy tales. She carefully matches each tale to the jewelry or bag, but soon the stories begin to foreshadow secrets and betrayals that fester beneath the surface.

Things begin to implode on the eve of the winter season, when Faith learns of her husband’s impending scandal. As this threatens to unravel her world, her own lifelong deception comes to light. Scrambling desperately to save her family, Faith must confront the haunting truth about what she left behind, her buried regret, and the demons that haunt her still. Amid the lush exterior and surreptitious interior, Marren creates intriguing characters, each invested in living the Palm Beach life, where the price of escape and the price of belonging are equally steep.

“I know a little about the Palm Beach life because my parents had a winter home there,” Barash said. “I would see a lot of very privileged people walking around, and it used to make me think ‘What are they hiding?’”

Barash is also the writer of 13 nonfiction women’s issues books, and another fiction title, Between the Tides, under her pen name Susannah Marren. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, Elle and Marie Claire, and has appeared on national television including the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” CBS, CNN, and MSNBC.

She said the Palm Beach Wife novel was heavily influenced by her own research in writing her nonfiction books. Sample titles are Toxic Friends, Sisters: Devoted or Divided, The New Wife, Women of Divorce and Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets.

“I interviewed hundreds of women,” said the author, who teaches in the writing department at Marymount Manhattan College in New York, where her focus is on gender studies. “It taught me about the dynamic of mother-daughter relationships as well as issues concerning marriage, divorce and friendships. From my interviews I saw how women are very good at keeping scerets because society still holds judgmental views about women.”

Barash, who holds degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and New York University, has served as a literary panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts, as a judge for the International Emmys, and as vice chair of the Mentoring Committee of the Women’s Leadership Board at the JFK School of Government, Harvard.

Last month, Barash was the special guest at an author luncheon held by the Friends of the Island Library at the Arlington in Ship Bottom.

“That really meant a lot to me because I loved going to the Island Library when it was in Ship Bottom (its prior place before moving to Surf City),” she said. “It’s always nice to come home.”

— Eric Englund

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