A WAY OF UNDERSTANDING LIFE

With Her Debut Novel, Eden, local author Jeanne Blasberg Is Garnering Widespread Acclaim

By Peter F. Stevens

Photographed by Hunter Levitan

First-time novelist Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg is already generating buzz that even veteran bestselling authors might envy as rave reviews are pouring in for
her debut novel, Eden.

With prose that flows between elegantly spare and lyrical, along with a keen sense of dialogue, Blasberg has earned praise from gifted and bestselling novelist Anita Shreve, author of The Pilot’s Wife and The Stars Are Fire, who notes, “Eden is not just another farewell-to-the-summer-house novel, but instead a masterfully interwoven family saga with indelible characters, unforgettable stories, and true pathos. Most impressive, there’s not an ounce of fat on this excellent book.”

Blasberg’s path to her first novel did not unfold in the way one might think. Instead, her background began in the world of finance. Following her graduation from Smith College, she worked on Wall Street, followed by strategic planning for Federated Department Stores and later as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School which brought her to Boston. Despite her successful business career, Blasberg wanted something else in life – to write. And, she attributes her own childhood to her love of writing. She tells Scene, “As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone, and like many only children, I created imaginary friends as playmates. Now, in many ways, they’ve become blended with my characters on the page – people who are flawed, honest, and worth spending time with.

“What partially influenced this novel was my own personality and experiences,” Blasberg adds. “Always hunting for writerly detail, I’ve been known to stare or eavesdrop on the table next to me. Call it research or maybe an overdeveloped sense of empathy, I’m fascinated by human nature. At heart, I’m really still that only child who played for hours with imaginary friends. My stories may echo timeless struggles, but they are spun with my own peculiar slant.”

Laughing, Blasberg says, “I’ve been known to closely observe strangers anywhere I go, and it drives my kids crazy – ‘Mom, stop staring!’”

Turning serious, Blasberg says, “One of the key inspirations for the book was something that happed twenty-three years ago. My husband found out that he had a brother who had been given up for adoption. It had a deep effect on my husband, and it got me thinking about how my mom had gotten pregnant with me in college and she and my dad got married. I wondered how my life would have been if they had decided to give me up for adoption. I juxtaposed my husband’s experience with my own.

“This idea percolated until I came up with the story of a multigenerational family with many secrets. It allowed many layers for the themes I wanted to pursue. Compassion and forgiveness for past generations and understanding that we can never fully understand what they went through but can make our peace – these are key aspects of my work.”

The result of those themes, her observations and her lifelong passion for the written word is Blasberg’s debut novel, Eden. Hard at work on her second novel, Blasberg and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, Rhode Island. When asked by Scene what she would most like for readers to take away from the pages of Eden, she replies: “It’s an understanding that so many things are passed down through the generations – things that are beneficial or hold us back. The novel shows that people have free will and can use it to deal with the past.”

To Blasberg, “Fiction is a way of understanding life.”