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Summer House: A Novel Hardcover – June 23, 2009

193 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Book Description
After years of wandering from whim to whim, thirty-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright seems to have at last found her niche. The free spirit enjoys running an organic gardening business on the island of Nantucket, thanks in large part to her spry grandmother Nona, who donated a portion of land on the family’s seaside compound to get Charlotte started. Though Charlotte’s skill with plants is bringing her success, cultivating something deeper with people—particularly her handsome neighbor Coop—might be more of a challenge.

Nona’s generosity to Charlotte, secretly her favorite grandchild, doesn’t sit well with the rest of the Wheelwright clan, however, as they worry that Charlotte may be positioning herself to inherit the entire estate. With summer upon them, everyone is making their annual pilgrimage to the homestead—some with hopes of thwarting Charlotte’s dreams, others in anticipation of Nona’s latest pronouncements at the annual family meeting, and still others with surprising news of their own. Charlotte’s mother, Helen, a Wheelwright by marriage, brings a heavy heart. She once set aside her own ambitions to fit in with the Wheelwrights, but now she must confront a betrayal that threatens both her sense of place and her sense of self.

As summer progresses, these three women—Charlotte, Nona, and Helen—come to terms with the decisions they have made. Revisiting the lives and loves that have crossed their paths and the possibilities of the roads not taken, they may just discover that what they’ve always sought was right in front of them all along.

Amazon Exclusive: Nancy Thayer on Summer House

As a child, I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s 90 now, and I still think that.

I’ve kept the photo albums of her as a young woman with my father, an officer in the Army in WWII. Through the years I’ve read and reread Daddy’s letters to my mother, written to her from Germany, and Belgium, and secret places. My parents were just ordinary people, from Kansas, and yet they had a glamour that fascinated me.

I loved my family—my extended family of aunt and uncle and cousins, too, although they always seemed annoyingly perfect to me, never as messy as my own family. Yet, as I grew up, I longed to rebel, to escape from the definition of myself as part of any family. I wanted to be my own person. I wanted to make my own choices. And I made them. And believe me, I made a few mistakes.

When I was in my thirties, my parents confided a secret to my sister. Not to me, to my sister! Of course, she immediately phoned me to share the news. I was stunned. And hurt—why hadn’t my parents told me first? I was the older sister!

These events and emotions are the catalysts for Summer House, about three women in a large, close-knit family.

Charlotte is 30, rebelling against her family’s goals for her life, and privately atoning for a terrible mistake she made.

Helen, 60, has overheard a conversation that brings her agony—and a chance to understand her place in the family.

And Nona, at 90, knows the time has come to reveal the most profound secret of all.

The family gathers at Nona’s summer house on Nantucket, where the tranquil surface of the beautiful island can not hide the consequences of desire and betrayal, and also of forgiveness and love. —Nancy Thayer

(Photo © Nicole Harnishfeger, Inquirer and Mirror)

From Publishers Weekly

Thayer (Shell Moon Beach) explores the tarnished interior of a family of Boston bankers as well as the more polished exterior they display in public in this tepid melodrama. Charlotte Wheelwright has a guilty conscience, so she flees Boston for Nantucket to start an organic farm on her grandmother's land. Nona is nearly 90, and the family is happy to have someone on the island with her year-round. A few years into her project, Charlotte begins making a small profit, and some members of the extended family have a problem with that. The clan gathers at the seaside mansion for the annual family meeting where the fate of Charlotte's garden will be decided. Much of the group, including Charlotte's addict brother, stay at the house all summer, to share in more festive occasions like Nona's birthday celebration, a wedding and the birth of a child. Charlotte, meanwhile, suddenly finds herself attracted to two men, but which will she choose? The clichéd family's clichéd squabbling—and the narrative as a whole—ends up being much ado about nothing. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345498208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345498205
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #770,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An Island Christmas is my 26th novel, set here on this wild island where I've lived for 30 years. I write about what I know & love: happy, slightly eccentric (aren't we all?), families, including cats and dogs. I post daily on Facebook and love to get to know my readers, and I send out a newsletter you can sign up for on my website: Nancy Thayer. Nantucket Sisters was my 2014 summer novel, all about a rich girl and a poor girl becoming best friends one Nantucket summer. This island is a wealth of inspiration!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Sassafras Summer on June 25, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the main characters, Nona, Helen, and Charlotte. I liked the stories of Nona, the family's matriarch, and her husband as he served in WWII. I enjoyed daydreaming about their lives and adventures and how lovely it would be to summer, every year, on the island of Nantucket. I couldn't help but think of the Kennedy's, probably because Charlotte's alcoholic brother's name was Teddy. I didn't want the book to end. I've read too many, less than satisfying, "summer reads" that were mostly fluff and silliness with stereotypical characters and shallow story lines. Summer House, on the other hand, is not one of those books and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Antoinette Klein on June 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Nancy Thayer gives us a nice, light beach read focusing on three women of the wealthy Wheelwright clan. The extended members of this upper-crust family all spend the summer together at the sprawling summer home of their matriarch Nona. With in-laws aplenty populating the house, tempers and long-seething jealousies are sure to flare as the reader is treated to a vicarious trip to a family reunion.

Nona is approaching 90 and enjoys having her son, her daughter, their children and grandchildren with her every summer. But as she becomes less mobile, she spends much time recalling the past and we are treated to the story of her falling in love with and marrying Herb, her now-deceased husband. Her favorite granddaughter, Charlotte, is now living with her permanently. A bit of a job-hopper, Charlotte has now found the one thing in life she wants to pursue as a career---she wants to be a gardener. With plenty of land on the estate, she grows vegetables and flowers which she sells daily at her market stand. Her happiness at having netted four thousand dollars the previous year does not sit well with her cousins who feel she is using her position as fair-haired grandchild to her advantage, though I'm never sure why this super-rich family begrudges her what must have been a piddling amount to them. Anyway, at 30, Charlotte is still unsure about love and has two interesting prospects over the course of the summer. She is also doing penance for a sexual dalliance in the past which still troubles her.

Charlotte's mother, Helen, is facing challenges of her own. When she learns of her husband's infidelity, she has major issues to face and contemplates divorce and freedom from this family.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Emereld2 on June 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know three generations of Wheelwright women: Anne, the matriarch (lovingly referred to as "Nona"), Helen, her daughter-in-law, and Charlotte, Helen's daughter. Grace, Nona's daughter, is a prominent but secondary character; Grace's children are also present but play very minor roles. We don't really get to know Grace and her children aside from their interactions with Helen and their cousins, and the glimpses we see are not flattering.

The story takes place at the family's summer house on Nantucket. The book is broken into parts by event, and each vignette sheds more light on the women and the family dynamics. Woven throughout are Nona's memories of her life as a young wife and mother.

It would be easy to characterize this book as mere fluff. Helen's children are non-conformists (horrifyingly so to this Eastern banking family) and Grace's children are whiny and dull. But beyond the easy stereotypes are women I can identify with: women who are far from perfect, trying to do their best day in and day out for themselves and for those they love. More importantly, Nona, Helen, and Charlotte own responsibility for the choices they have made.

Highly recommended!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L. Combs on June 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Summer House" is not an unpleasant book... but it had too many characters, and too little actual focus. Two chapters into it, I had to sketch out a family tree, in order to keep all the relations straight -- and that is something the author should have provided. The story meanders through the lives of all these people, interestingly enough (I guess) but without much point, direction or energy. Only the writer's skill with words made this as readable as it was.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Lawrence on July 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Wheelwright's are an affluent Boston family. They meet up every summer at the family's Nantucket summer home, also the permanent residence of the family matriarch, Nona, and Charlotte, Nona's 30 year old granddaughter.

This summer the family really has something to celebrate: Nona's 90th birthday! Soon the quiet Nantucket house will be overflowing with family members, and with them comes extra family drama.

Summer House is told from the viewpoint of three generations of Wheelwright women: Nona Wheelwright, Helen Wheelwright, and Charlotte Wheelwright.

Nona Wheelwright is the oldest surviving member of the Wheelwright family. Her husband, Herb, passed away several years ago. Her days are spent reliving her youth. Through flashbacks, the reader catches a glimpse of her introduction to the Wheelwright family. Although her midwestern family was wealthy as well, Nona (known as Anne in her youth) had to work hard to be accepted into the family. Secrets she's kept for decades may change the family forever...for the good and and the bad.

Helen Wheelwright is married to Nona's oldest son, Worth. She's recently discovered he was having an affair, and spends the summer weeding through her thoughts as to what her future will hold.

Charlotte Wheelwright has finally found her passion: running an organic gardening business on her Grandma Nona's land. She's the free-spirit of the family. After attempting to join the family banking business without success, the Wheelwights agreed to allow Charlotte to take upon this endeavor. It also helped that she'd be caring for Grandma Nona, a task Nona's children hadn't been able to take upon themselves.

Three years later she's still at it and with a profit!
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