I always say it isn’t summer until Elin Hilderbrand’s newest novel is on my table. And here it is! SUMMERLAND will not disappoint avid Hilderbrand fans.
Hilderbrand has begun tackling important issues in her last couple novels. Last summer, with SILVER GIRL, she introduced us to a character who resembled the wife of a financial tycoon who had brought his entire family to the depths of his defeat. From the perspective of the wife of the accused. It was not my favorite of her novels, but it was still good. After all, it is on Nantucket.
With SUMMERLAND, Hilderbrand tackles the subject of death, the superior power of guilt, friendship, secrets, and love. It’s no secret that the story pretty much begins with a tragic accident on the island of Nantucket. Four friends are on their way home from a beach party. It’s the end of the school year. Penny, who is at the wheel of her boyfriend’s jeep, becomes enraged over something that happened in the dunes just moments before they left the beach. This something becomes the “big question” throughout the novel. What did she find out? Was it something told to her? And who would do such a thing? And why?
When I saw the blurb on the back of the galley, I was disheartened. I want upbeat for summer. I want to be able to recommend summery novels for my clients. And this didn’t seem like something I even wanted to contend with right now. However, having said all that, I will say that this book became quite a page- turner for me. I found myself needing to know what Penny found out. I just had to know. And I found myself getting into the minds of the characters and their families. Everyone deals with grief differently. We all have issues. And each of the families involved are in the midst of monumental problems within their relationships. Then to have to experience the ultimate grief, is overwhelming.
Zoe has lost her only daughter, Penny. Penny’s twin brother has sustained injuries that are life threatening. And Zoe was widowed many years ago while her twins were inutero. But what is happening in her life now that could be the cause of much angst?
Then there is Jake, Penny’s boyfriend. His parents might as well be apart. His mother lost a baby years ago and has never recovered. Now this. Jack is unharmed physically, but feels guilty because he let Penny drive.
And, Demeter is the other teenager involved in the crash. An overweight alcoholic, she can’t deal with what life dishes out to her at the best of times. And her parents are both dishwaters living in total denial of the problem. Demeter was the last of them to speak to Penny before she drove the jeep into a death trap.
So, you can see where this is going. But what could have been a total wreck, turned out to be a thought- provoking and sensitive telling of a story that could happen to anyone.
When I was a teenager one of my classmates was killed in a similar accident. We lived in a community near Rehobeth Beach, Delaware. As our senior year wound down, the beach was a logical spot for partying; we were so close. Two young couples were involved in the accident which changed them all forever. One young woman was killed and the others had some injuries. But it is the injuries done to ones psyhe that are the hardest to heal. And I never gave much thought to what the families must have been going through.
The ongoing question, the mystery throughout is “what happened to make Penny so enraged she would want to kill herself and endanger her best friends?” And you will find yourself having to find out.
Little Brown sent me this beautiful galley so I could read it ahead of the pub date and let you readers know how good it is. Thanks guys.