Belva Plain dies at 95; author of more than 20 bestselling novels

Belva Plain, who wrote more than 20 bestselling novels during a literary career that spanned several decades, has died. She was 95.

Plain died in her sleep Tuesday at her home in New Jersey, said her daughter, Barbara. No cause of death was given.

Belva Plain obituary: The obituary of novelist Belva Plain in the Oct. 18 LATExtra section had an incomplete listing of her survivors. She is survived by three children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. —

Plain, known for epic novels of family and forgiveness, never owned a computer and wrote in longhand on a yellow pad. She had written short fiction for women’s magazines but didn’t start writing novels until after she became a grandmother.

“The thing is, you come to a perspective of life at midway,” she told The Times in 1978. “You see your grandchildren, you remember your grandparents, and there’s a sense of overall family continuance. It’s a very moving experience.”

Her first novel, “Evergreen,” was published in 1978. It follows the saga of a young girl who trades the desperate squalor of rural Poland for the teeming slums of New York, where she is torn between the love and ambitions of two men. It was developed into a miniseries that aired on NBC in 1985.


“My grandparents came from Germany in 1875. I set ‘Evergreen’ in the 1900s for two reasons: It was more dramatic — Germany was relatively quiet in the 1870s,” she told the Washington Post in 1980. “And then I wanted to bring the heroine up to the present, so 1875 would have been too long ago.

“So it’s not my family, but it has relevance to my family and to the whole American experience.… It is always the same story of people coming to the promised land.”

Shortly before her death, Plain completed a sequel to “Evergreen,” which will be published in February. Plain had previously revived some of the “Evergeen” characters for three other novels: “The Golden Cup,” “Tapestry” and “Harvest.”

More than 28 million copies of Plain’s books are in print.

Plain was born Oct. 9, 1915, in New York. She was an only child who wrote poetry as a teenager and graduated with a history degree from Barnard College.

At a dinner party a few years later, she met Irving Plain, who became a prominent Newark-based ophthalmologist. They were married in 1939. He died in 1982.

“Belva’s stories spoke to the hearts and lives of millions of readers for decades,” said Shauna Summers, senior editor of Ballantine Bantam Dell, Random House, which published Plain.

She is also survived by six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.