A decade ago, Queens native Amy Blumenfeld moved with her family to Roslyn, mainly because her growing family needed the room a Manhattan apartment couldn’t provide. One constant in Blumenfeld’s career has been her talent for writing. A graduate of the prestigious Columbia University School of Journalism, Blumenfeld has worked, among other places, as a staff writer for George magazine, the publication founded by John F. Kennedy, Jr. At George, Blumenfeld wrote a profile on children of American presidents. That parlayed into a cover story by her in People magazine on then-President Bush’s two daughters. Blumenfeld’s freelance career was now underway.
And it has reached fruition with her first novel, The Cast, to be published this month by SparkPress.
The debut novel, according to the publisher, is about a group of lifelong friends gathering for a reunion weekend that celebrates triumph over a dark history, one that resurfaces and tests their bonds. Twenty-five years earlier, during their first year of high school, this group produced a Saturday Night Live–style video to cheer up an ailing friend. The show had a lasting impact: Becca, a main character, laughed her way through recovery from lymphoma and the stars of the video, Jordana, Seth, Holly and Lex, became her supporting cast for life. On the silver anniversary of Becca Night Live, they reunite over a summer weekend to celebrate Becca’s good health, but nothing goes as planned. It soon becomes apparent that each richly-drawn, relatable character has a secret and the façades begin to crumble as they confront complex moral dilemmas and life-altering choices. Told through alternating perspectives, The Cast explores the power of forgiveness and the value of friendships when life plays out differently than expected.
Even though the novel has not yet been released, it has already been named the gold winner of the 2018 IPPY Award (Independent Publisher Book Awards) in popular fiction. Winning awards isn’t new for Blumenfeld. At Columbia, she was the recipient of the James A. Wechsler Award for National Reporting.
The novel has also received advance praise.
“This is my favorite novel of 2018. Your heart will grow after reading this story about the healing power of friendship,” said Norah O’Donnell, CBS This Morning cohost.
“In The Cast, Blumenfeld deftly reminds us how friendship and love, when cultivated over decades, can transcend even the darkest moments. A heartfelt, moving page-turner,” added Fiona Davis, best-selling author of The Address.
“When I was in graduate school, I wrote my master’s project about adult survivors of childhood cancer,” Blumenfeld said, when asked why she wrote the novel. “The professors instructed us to choose a topic that would sustain our interest over the course of a year. I had no idea what I would write about. I brainstormed countless ideas but nothing really stuck. The day before the deadline for submitting our topic, I happened to have my annual checkup with my doctor in the pediatric department at Sloan Kettering. I checked in that morning, got the paper ID bracelet, and sat down in the large waiting room with a notebook and pen scribbling down different master’s project ideas while I waited for my name to be called. The woman sitting beside me tapped my shoulder and asked if I was there waiting for a patient to come out of an appointment. I pulled up my sleeve and showed her the ID bracelet and said, ‘I’m the patient.’ She was completely taken aback. She was there with her teenage daughter who had recently been diagnosed and the mom started asking me numerous questions about my own experience, about my parents’ and brother’s experience, and about my life during and after treatment. She then asked me to speak to her daughter who was very quiet and seemed reluctant to chat. I had been the same way when I was her age. So, after my checkup that morning I found the woman and her daughter and spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out with them. She thanked me for giving them hope and enabling them to see that there could be life after this nightmare. I left the hospital and knew I had my master’s project topic. I spent the next several months learning about the physical and psychological long-term effects of childhood cancer treatment and meeting and interviewing adult survivors as well as some of their loved ones. At graduation, my professor suggested I turn the project into a book. But here I am, 21 years later, and somehow, it blossomed into a novel.”
Blumenfeld added that the novel is about “much more than a book about cancer; it’s about friendships, and the ebb and flow of long-term relationships with not just the person one has built a life with but also our friends and family.”
Blumenfeld’s work has been published in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine and Prevention. For more information on the author, visit amyblumenfeld.com.