Tag Archives: Nantucket

A Summer Place

Summerland: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand (Reagan Arthur Books, $26.99, 400 pages)

Life can be traumatic and daunting even on Nantucket Island, the idyllic summer vacation destination for generations of families, including the wealthy and famous like Martha Stewart.   These are the summer people who see the island as an escape from reality.   Of course on Nantucket, like any resort, there must be the year-round residents who live their lives in full on the island 30 miles from the mainland.

Elin Hilderbrand knows of what she writes.   As a resident, she knows the year-around version of island life.   Summerland is the eleventh novel based in her neck of the woods.   Two of her most recent past novels, Silver Girl and The Island have been reviewed on this site.   Both of these reviews were based on the audio versions of the books.   Each was superb; however, the magic of seeing the story in hard copy was most evident for this book.

The narrative is written from the perspective of each of the main characters, including Nantucket.   There are two generations represented here, teenagers and their parents.   This time around the human experiences up for exploration are death, loss, parenting and children.   Both generations are subjected to the fallout effects when the golden girl of her class, Penny Alistair, dies in a horrific auto crash on high school graduation night.   Her twin brother Hobby, short for Hobson, is mangled and left in a coma.   Two other juniors, Jake and Demeter escape unscathed.

The story line is believable and somewhat predictable but it is the way the characters are developed that makes this a compelling read.   Regardless of the reader’s age, adult or young adult, the very poignant lessons learned are delivered in a manner that’s achievable only by a master story teller. 

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Summerland: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand.

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With a Little Help From My Friends

The Island: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand (Unabridged Hachette audio book on 13 CDs; $34.98)

When the going gets tough for Chess Cousins, she and three other East Coast ladies retreat to Tuckernuck Island off the coast of Nantucket.   These ladies are not just anyone; they are Chess’s mother Birdie Cousins, aunt Ida Bishop and sister Tate Cousins.   Tough doesn’t begin to describe Chess’s situation as her recently dumped fiance has died in a rock climbing incident and she has walked out on her editorial job at a prestigious culinary magazine.   To make matters worse, Chess decides to cut her shining golden hair and shave her head.

Birdie masterminds their trip to the family vacation home on Tuckernuck.   The house lacks hot water, electricity, and television and cell phone reception.   After a 13-year family hiatus from vacationing on the property, the ladies come together for the month of July.   The plan is to allow Chess the solitude and support she needs to get beyond her depression.

Author Hilderbrand present a masterfully simple story that expands as the days on the island are counted off, one by one.   The cadence of the story, narrated by Denice Hicks, is one of calm repetition that includes descriptions of the locale, conversations, meal preparation and the introspective thoughts of the ladies.   The activities they perform daily become part of the story line.   There are bursts of emotion that erupt from the interactions of the characters.   The narrator balances the dulcet tones of Birdie with the harsh outbursts from Tate and Chess.   India’s throaty voice is a sharp contrast to those of her sister and nieces.   This is only right as she is a worldly woman who is herself the widow.

The key male character is Barrett Lee, a golden hunk of a man in his thirties, who is the caretaker of the house.   He brings the food, wine, ice and clean laundry daily from Nantucket.   Although Nantucket is only a half-mile away by boat, it might as well be on another continent.   Both Barrett and his father Chuck before him have captured the hearts and imaginations of the respective generations of sisters.

The sense of isolation felt by Birdie, India and Tate serves to prompt them to deal with their own issues even though they are supposed to be assisting Chess.   There is a sense of dancing around each one’s life situation, avoiding the whole truth, shying away and then revisiting them again and again.   Each revisit brings more of the backstories to the fore.   The complexity of the emotions and fears brought on by the need for someone to love is flavored with loving kindness, frustration, self-awareness and anxiety.

In a sense, the book is a confessional.   The four points of view on love and loss, sibling rivalry and what it means to be loved are beautifully portrayed in this multi-generational saga.

Highly recommended, and, yes, it’s a fine example of chick lit.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of the audio book was provided by Hachette Audio.

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Off Key: Off Season

“It’s hard to say it, I hate to say it, but it’s probably me…”   Sting

I suppose it’s just me but I simply could not relate to this story.   It may well be me as I’ve read so many positive comments about this author (Anne Rivers Siddons) and also heard good things from friends and fellow readers.   The story certainly started off as cute with a prologue involving the main character Lily and the cat Silas, as they drive with Lily’s husband Carl’s ashes out on the road, on a journey.

But before the journey ever begins, we have to revisit Lily’s life as a child on “the wild coast of Maine,” and this is where the story came to a near halt for me.   Siddons writes about a privileged world where people hang out and vacation when they’re not in places like Hyannis Port or Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.   Or Boston or New York City or state.   “…wealthy people from Boston and New York had found the colony, and had bought up seaside land…  and built huge, rambling houses that cost nearly a million dollars and sent everybody’s taxes skyrocketing.   They were not loved.”off season 6

Siddons’ writing seems to be more real when she describes nature or places or scenes than people.   “We sank down in the velvety moss…  It was sun warmed…  the warmth was soothing…   Sleep came as it does outdoors: the sun hammered down on you, sounds faded out…  and then all sound was gone.”   I have, of course, no way to judge this type of scene being a west coast resident who has never slept on (on top of or in?) moss – and never slept outdoors in the daytime.

Let me put it another way.   I desperately wanted to climb up the hill that constituted this story but I found no toe holds, nor even places for my hands to grab.   Reading should not be this difficult, so – in the words of Joni Mitchell – when the hopes got so slim I just resigned.

It may be that Siddons – in her childhood and/or adulthood – has inhabited a world of privilege that is so genteel I simply cannot relate to it.   Maybe that’s it, exactly.   Or maybe it’s just me.   It’s probably me.

Thank you to Hachette Books for the review copy.

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