Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Summerland  by Elin Hilderbrand
Read:  2012

This was my first, and possibly, my only, Hilderbrand. Ooh, that sounds like I didn't enjoy the book when I actually did.  It even coincides with my idea about creating a place and then having stories all happen there. Same scenery, same people (sometimes, not always),  but very different stories, possibly even different genres.  My boyfriend made me an island and I told him what I wanted on it and together we built from there.  I have a very, let's say, rich inner life. But, that's just me and you came here to read about the book.

Hilderbrand's books, as I understand, all take place on Nantucket Island.  In Summerland, four kids leave a beach party after the high school graduation and get into a horrific accident.  The driver, Penny Alistair dies in the crash and her twin brother, Hobby is broken and comatose.  Penny's boyfriend, Jake Randolph and her friend Demeter Castle are physically unharmed, but certainly not undamaged.  Penny and Jake were the dream couple, everyone loved them and they seemed to love one another.  This is a book about families, love, trauma and its aftermath. The accident really only serves to highlight all that's been happening in these homes for years.

Jake Randolph's father runs the local paper. The Randolphs have been newspapermen for generations and even when one decides to go a different way, the ink in their veins calls them home.  Jake's mother is a fish out of her native waters. She's Australian and entirely too separated from her home and family.  A SIDS death of Jake's baby brother set her over the edge.  She's a shell of the woman she once was. She can't accept the loss, nor can she forgive her husband, to whom she's assigned the blame.  Jake has been absorbing all of this for years.  He has the Alistair home to turn to for the warmth and life that's dimmed in his own home.  

Penny and Hobby Alistair are being raised by their single mother. She is the quirky, artsy chef on the island. She fell in love with her older culinary professor, they married and he died suddenly, leaving her pregnant with the twins. She found her way to Nantucket and her house on the water to raise the children.  Penny is a gifted vocalist with what would seem to be a sunny future. Hobby is an extraordinary athlete, also with a clear and gilded path ahead of him.  But, Penny wasn't happy and didn't feel that sun shining on her. Hobby's future hit a monumental road block when he was so severely injured in the crash.

Then there's Demeter.  She would seem to have it all. Her parents are well to do and love her.  When she leaves the house, she finds the world is loveless for her.  She doesn't like herself and her unhappiness leaves her wanting for companionship.  She is the one keeping all the secrets about the night of the crash and they are eating her alive.

So, there you have it.  Car crash, death, injury, grief, self-sabotage and problems that are far from being just teenage angst.  In fact, you've got all of your angst covered here, teen, adult, parental, familial, you name it.  Hilderbrand manages to make the characters interesting and likable. I like that no one is all good or bad, but so very very human.  I do have to admit that I found the Alistair's a bit too 'golden'.  Of course, they crashed and burned (no pun intended) just like normal folk do, and I guess, that makes the devastation have so much more impact, than when it happens to the mere mortals.  I did find myself wanting to know how these characters would fare and actually caring about them.  I just didn't feel this the way you do in a truly great work of literature.  

I spent my summers on a small island on the New Jersey shore.  I grew up with that feeling of comfort and familiarity.  It was easy to find a home in Hilderbrand's Nantucket.  It was like a visit into small town, seaside life.  I like that it is always there and I'm glad that I went, but there are so many other places I want to visit.  I'm just not sure if I'll make it back.

Here's the information on Summerland at Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble

And, even better, here's a book trailer:  

I think my text got a little screwy there, but check out the videos. If you haven't read the books and you are looking for a frothy little beach/poolside read, you could do a whole lot worse than these.

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