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Summerland: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – July 30, 2013
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About the Author
Elin Hilderbrand: novelist, mother of three, sports enthusiast, avid fan of Bruce Springsteen, Veuve Clicquot, and four-inch heels. She sits on the Board of Directors at the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club and Nantucket Little League. Her resting pulse is 65.
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Hilderbrand has written over twelve chick/beach lit novels with titles including All The Summer Girls, The Love Season, and Barefoot. Summerland is her most recent and if one is expecting a light beach read choose another book. This is a departure from her earlier works of romance and renewed relationships. It is a darker turn resembling a Jodi Picoult outing.
In this idyllic setting of Nantucket lives are to be changed. Lies and secrets lead to a horrible incident impacting the sensitive balance within and between three families. It also impacts the community so the author has that collective represented as a single character reacting to, and commenting on, events as they unfold. As a device it works very well but the main draw are the characters. They start out as stereotypes but these damaged parents and their troubled teens are revealed to be much deeper indeed.
In Summerland, Nantucket is a "fantasy of American summertime", a place of lunches, parties, tournaments, and fundraisers running on social currency. It is put to the test as all people and places are when things change. But especially summer places where sameness is not only comforting, it is expected. This is not your average fun beach read so perhaps save it for the fall when you can consume it along with several scotches.
Don't get me wrong, this is undeniably soapy stuff. But SUMMERLAND is also compellingly written and hard to put down. The very definition of a page turner, SUMMERLAND deftly walks the fine line between provocative and salacious. The characters are well drawn enough to elicit empathy for their various plights, even when they act abominably. You often hate what they're doing, but the actions, and reactions, are rooted enough to feel real and give the fast-paced plot much-needed grounding.
This isn't a deep, meaningful read, but it's throughly entertaining and, not in a cheesy "guilty pleasure" sort of way, but more in a good, well-written, beach-read fashion. Personally, I finished it in a single session. It's my first Elin Hilderbrand book, but I'll be seeking out more by this author.
As the night goes on the boys and Demeter continue to drink and party hop with Penny at the wheel as designated driver. But at the last party something happens that upsets Penny to the core. All anyone knows is that Demeter asks Penny to go the bathroom with her and when they get back Penny is a wreck. What could have happened to change Penny's mood so drastically? Penny decides to drive everyone home since they have all been drinking but both Jake and Hobby are worried about Penny's state of mind. Penny is speeding and not slowing down. As she continues to accelerate everyone in the car begins to worry. They beg her to slow down but she is now flooring the car. Soon the road is about to end at the beach dunes and Penny shows no signs of slowing down. The next thing the teens know is that the car is in the air and flipping. The consequences are not good. This isn't a spoiler since it is on the book flap but Penny ends up dead. Her brother Hobby is airlifted to Mass General Hospital in a coma with 14 broken bones and head trauma. Jake and Demeter are unhurt. Now the families are left to deal with the fall-out and each family deals with the consequences quite differently.
Jake's family is already falling apart after the death of his 8 week old brother due to SIDS 4 years earlier. His mother, Ava, has distanced herself from the family and has moved into the nursery and spends her time either grieving her lost son or fighting with her husband, Jordan, who owns and runs the local paper. Demeter's family doesn't realize that their daughter is a brutal alcoholic who steals bottles of alcohol from residents homes during her working hours as a landscaper. Zoe, Penny and Hobby's mother, shuts herself off from all of her old friends to focus on Hobby and his healing and dealing with the loss of her daughter.
Hilderbrand writes these complex characters with a deft hand. She certainly knows what she is doing when she writes these multi-faceted, layered characters like a professional. I was impressed that she could create such complete characters. She also writes with compassion. She pulls the readers feelings right out of them so our emotions are laid bare right there next to the characters that we are reading about. She deals with the theme of loss with grace and even know she has to show the bad side of a character she still makes them worth empathy.
Hilderbrand really took a chance to take a step away from her typical writing and she pulled it off brilliantly. I highly recommend this book! 4 stars!