Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Summerland

Summary: A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. But what begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver of the car, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny's boyfriend Jake and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt - but the emotional damage is overwhelming, and questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel.

As summer unfolds, startling truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents - secrets kept, promises broken, hearts betrayed. Elin Hilderbrand explores the power of community, family, and honesty, and proves that even from the ashes of sorrow, new love can still take flight. -- Reagan Arthur Books

One thing I know I can count on is that every summer Elin Hilderbrand will write a book that I want to read. This year was no exception! She always manages to writing poignant stories about women, and she also sets her stories in the most wonderful settings... usually beaches. She truly is my go-to author for summer escape reading.

Her latest novel SUMMERLAND was a little different for me than some of her previous books; however, I still really enjoyed it! The novel did take place in a beach setting -- Nantucket this time, and there were plenty of fascinating female characters, and the book did have major themes of love and loss, so it might first appear that this is another "typical" Elin Hilderbrand book. (I say that in a good way because I love her stories!) However, this book actually explored the effects that a horrific accident had on a town, the survivors and their families. As a mother, I found it to be an extremely touching story; and I will tell you that it broke my heart over and over again.

SUMMERLAND begins with Nantucket High's graduation and the tragic car accident that occurs after one of the parties. Penny, one of the most talented girls in the school's history, dies; while her twin brother Hobby, the school's star athlete, is in a coma. The two other passengers, Jake (Penny's boyfriend) and Demeter are able to walk away from the accident seemingly uninjured. In what should have been a summer of celebration as these four students got ready for their senior year, their loves are forever changes because of this tragedy.

The accident raises many questions about Penny's mental state, and her brother and friends are desperate for answers. In addition, the survivors have to face many of their own issues including survivors' guilt as well as their own dark secrets. And it isn't just the survivors' lives that are altered by the car crash. Their parents and the entire community are deeply affected by this tragedy. Long-held secrets, obligations, and even broken promises all come to light upsetting the balance of this beautiful small town.

After reading my description of this book, you might be thinking that SUMMERLAND is a major downer and doesn't sound like a relaxing summer read. I have to say that you'd be missing out if you leave this one out of your beach or pool bag. While SUMMERLAND does deal with some very heavy issues (namely the death of a young teen), it is ultimately a story about love and hope; and one that reminds you that bad stuff can (and will) happen to us in our lives, but many times, these events will lead to beautiful things.

Ms. Hilderbrand has once again brought to life Nantucket, a wonderful setting for a summer novel. I often times say that an author has done such a great job with the details about the story's location that it almost becomes another character in the novel. Well in the case of SUMMERLAND, that's exactly what the author did. (Seriously, that's exactly what she did.) The story is told through the eyes of various characters, including the survivors and their families, but there are also sections of the story told in the voice of Nantucket. I thoroughly appreciated how Ms. Hilderbrand not only used Nantucket to reveal the story, but how she also showed the lasting effects that an accident can have on an entire town and its people.

As I write this review, I want to say so much about this story and its characters... but then it would be so long that no one would read it! Maybe it's just best for me to recommend that you read this book and explore the characters for yourself. SUMMERLAND does set out to accomplish a lot in its almost 400 pages, and I think it's safe to say that there will be at least one character and/or one story line that will capture you attention (and your heart.)

SUMMERLAND would make a great summer book club pick. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any discussion questions at this time, but I'm sure the publisher will have them available in the near future. SUMMERLAND explores so many universal themes including love, parent/child relationships, loss, grief, resentment, and secrets; and I have no doubt that most book groups wouldn't have any problem finding things to discuss.

I enjoyed SUMMERLAND a great deal and I think fans of Ms. Hilderbrand's or fans of women's fiction will find a lot to like about this novel.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel. Make sure you check out my other post from today because Ms. Hilderbrand wrote a fantastic essay and I'll be giving away three copies of SUMMERLAND.


bermudaonion said...

This does sound like it's a little deeper than Hilderbrand's usual fare, but that it's well worth reading. I hope to get to it soon!

Beth F said...

I knew you'd love this one. And I too loved how Nantucket itself had a voice. I always look forward to Hilderbrand's books.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

this sounds good!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I have yet to read any of her stuff. this sounds like one to capture my attention, though.

Anonymous said...

I love women's fiction and this sounds like something that I would enjoy. I have not read anything by this author yet. Thank you for the introduction.

Elizabeth said...

It is a good read.

I love her books...great post.

My review is up for June 26...stop by to sign up for my giveaway if you like.