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Summer House: A Novel Hardcover – June 23, 2009
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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.
Top customer reviews
Nona (Anne) is a very well loved grandmother who loves her family. It had twists in all the right places. There's definitely a sense of history as Nancy Thayer takes us into Nona's past.
We learn that all characters have flaws and they have an amazing ability to keep the family together.
This story took me in my mind to Nantucket. I've never been there, yet I could get a tremendous vision of the place, the beautiful summer house.
Nancy Thayer has a beautiful way with words and a strong sense of bringing her characters forth as strong characters.
She's becoming one of my new favorite authors.
Even though Nona has two children, most of this books is focused on her son, Worth, his wife Helen and their family. Her daughter Grace's family, in comparison, is rather boring giving all of the drama and controversy surrounding Worth and Helen's children. Charlotte, their oldest, runs Beach Grass Garden, a local, organic food source for the residents of Nantucket, on a parcel of land owned by Nona. Grace's family is up on arms - viewing this as favoritism toward Worth's children, and since Charlotte is making a profit, they are worried that their inheritance of the land is in jeopardy. Oliver, Helen and Worth's oldest son, and his partner Owen are planning to get married on Nantucket, then returning to their lives in San Francisco, far away from the Wheelwright clan. Teddy, their youngest, who has always struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, shows up for Nona's birthday party with pregnant Suzette in tow, claiming her as his wife.
Throughout the novel, each family member, even Nona, is harboring an important secret, that once revealed, will surprise the reader. Thayer wraps the plot up very nicely, leaving the reader with a satisfying, and entertaining story! Great for summer reading!
My only complaint was that the antagonistic Aunt Grace never got told off like she should have been-what an insufferable biddy! This person would never survive in my family because we would never put up with her. However, I suspect she is very true to life.
Most recent customer reviews
OK for a beach read, but not a memorable book.