Along comes a family saga of epic proportions, where emotions run wild, money speaks out loud, racism pushes to the forefront, and power is king. THE GUEST BOOK is an ambitious second novel by Sarah Blake who is the author of THE POSTMISTRESS.
It’s May, 1935. Kitty Milton is in the prime of her life. She, quite simply, has everything any young woman could possibly desire. She’s got wealth, a handsome and accomplished husband she loves, three healthy children, and a bright future… What more could she want? But, as we know, everything can change in the blink of an eye.
When tragedy comes to live in the heart of Kitty Milton and her family, her husband Ogden is challenged to find a way to help bring Kitty back from the edge. So he buys her an island off the coast of Maine. Just a small one… This island becomes a main character in this novel. And I fell in love with it.
I love big family sagas. There is a lot of meat in this one. So many secrets are buried just beneath the surface. Blake does such a super job of keeping them just under wrap. Then easing them out so slowly, allowing us to percolate and speculate. Sarah Blake was a good writer with POSTMISTRESS. She is a great author now with THE GUEST BOOK. I so enjoyed the actual reading of this story. I found myself pausing, lying the book down, allowing the reading to soak in. This is not a novel to “blow” through. This is one to savor.
Themes abound here. The Milton family is filthy rich and own much of the power in this country at the time. On the surface their business practices seem above board. But are they? When a young Jewish man enters the picture in 1959 and begins working for the Miltons, he may be onto something. Something that is quite troublesome. And then he falls for Joan, the daughter. Do you think the Milton’s would ever admit a Jewish man inside their family? Their business, sure. But, family?
The scenes on the island were entrancing. Blake has an uncanny ability to draw you into her world. Life on the island is slow. This is the place where the Milton’s can be alone, or they can choose to be surrounded by friends and family. They all have a stake in this amazing part of their lives. The children grow up not ever knowing life without this haven that has become their oasis.
As the children become adults, marry and bring spouses and grandchildren to the island, the family dynamic begins to change. The world is changing. Politics are changing, secrets are emerging, lives are lost, and just maybe the Island is losing its power. It’s certainly an expensive part of this family to sustain. In fact, too darn expensive. The new generation finds that the family money that has been put in trust for this vacation spot has been all but stripped. And thus begins a big bone of contention amongst the family. To keep or not to keep?
Throughout all this is the memory of a young black man named Reg Pauling who came to visit the island one weekend years ago. He and his friend Len Levy were invited by a family member. This visit completely changed the future of the family and the story. How can we ever be certain who we truly are?
I am proud to take this fine novel to my book lectures this season. It’s a real tour de force! My review copy was picked up at SIBA and furnished by Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review. I am such a lucky reader! Yes, I loved it! We put it high on the summer reading list for Critic’s Choice in Naples. Psst! A big surprise is coming to Naples this coming season. Stay tuned.
THE GUEST BOOK by Sarah Blake will be available to purchase on Tuesday, May 7.
We will have them at Copperfish and they’ll be discounted 20%. We can’t wait to see you and show off this amazing book. Come on up!