Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Summer Secrets

Summary: When a shocking family secret is revealed, twenty-something journalist Cat Coombs finds herself falling into a dark spiral. Wild, glamorous nights out in London and raging hangovers the next day become her norm, leading to a terrible mistake one night while visiting family in America, on the island of Nantucket. It's a mistake for which she can't forgive herself. When she returns home, she confronts the unavoidable reality of her life and knows it's time to grow up. But she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to earn the forgiveness of the people she hurt.

As the years pass, Cat grows into her forties, a struggling single mother, coping with a new-found sobriety and determined to finally make amends. Traveling back to her past, to the family she left behind on Nantucket all those years ago, she may be able to earn their forgiveness, but in doing so she may risk losing the very people she loves the most.

Told with Jane Green's keen eye for detailing the emotional landscape of the heart, Summer Secrets is at once a compelling drama and a beautifully rendered portrait of relationships, betrayals, and forgiveness; about accepting the things we cannot change, finding the courage to change the things we can, and being strong enough to weather the storms. -- St. Martin's Press

Yesterday, I shared with you an amazing giveaway of a Summer Secrets Tote Bag filled with tons of goodies provided by none other than Jane Green. She is celebrating the release of her latest novel SUMMER SECRETS in a big way, and it's no wonder. Ms. Green's has done it again with SUMMER SECRETS. She's written an entertaining, yet touching, story about a woman who battles alcoholism.

SUMMER SECRETS tells the story of Cat Coombs, a young journalist who seemingly had it all. She also likes to party... a lot, and her friends and family are starting to realize that Cat's partying nature might be more serious. When Cat blacks out and wakes up in a strange man's bed, she even begins to question herself. Good thing, that stranger is Jason Halliwell, a recovering alcoholic himself and a man that wants to help Cat.

Cat decides to start attending AA meetings and work a recovery plan, but her heart is never quite in it. She's more concerned with doing what Jason wants rather than really admitting that she is an alcoholic. When Cat learns that her father, with whom she had a distant relationship, wasn't really her father, she sets out to America (specifically Nantucket) to meet her "real" family. Unfortunately, her drinking gets out of control and her actions end up alienating her new family.

Cat returns to England, marries Jason, and even has a daughter. However, she can't stay sober. Jason ultimately leaves her and takes their daughter with him. When Cat reaches rock bottom, she decides that she must stay clean for the sake of everything she holds dear.

I enjoyed SUMMER SECRETS and, once again, I was impressed with the way Ms. Green tackled a difficult subject matter. She created a realistic character in Cat -- she certainly was flawed; and she also showed that partying isn't exactly glamorous especially when it turns into a life-long battle with alcohol. I especially appreciated the overall messages from the novel.

Cat was an extremely interesting character (take note book clubs!) I wasn't sure that I loved Cat, but I liked her enough; and as the story went on, it became easier and easier to understand her. As a result, I did end up rooting for to accept her problem and work the path to recovery. That's not to say that I didn't want to shake her because it was inevitable that the path she was on was one of total destruction. It's interesting that my emotions -- both good and bad -- were so strong towards Cat. I'm sure it's similar (however much much less) of how loved ones must feel when facing a friend or family member who suffers from alcoholism.

I also really appreciated how Ms. Green portrayed not only alcoholism as a disease but also the damage it does to families... and how difficult it is to stay clean. One thing that stood out to me is something that happened to Cat at the end of the novel. I don't want to give too much away but Cat was at the receiving end of some cruel behavior that was the result of something she did many years before. I liked how this part of the novel demonstrated how much damage an alcoholic can do -- just how deep the anger and hurt can go.

I also felt like Ms. Green did a good job in showing how hard it is to work the AA program and stay clean. Cat struggled for years with drinking and it was only when she hit rock bottom, when she lost everything, that she truly cared enough to stay sober. Cat's struggle, although painful at times, was a perfect way to make readers understand and emphasize with recovering addicts. In many ways, SUMMER SECRETS reminded me of  BEST KEPT SECRET by Amy Hatvany in that it showed the destructive nature of alcoholics.

And finally, I loved the messages from SUMMER SECRETS. Goodness knows, Cat did some pretty major damage to her loved ones. However ultimately, this story was about making amends, forgiveness, and redemption. I also felt a certain bit of hope after finishing it. And that's always a good feeling to have after reading a story like this one.

SUMMER SECRETS would make a terrific book club selection. I wasn't able to find an on-line discussion guide, but I'm sure your group wouldn't have any problems finding themes to discuss. Of course, there's alcoholism and addiction, but there's also lots about family dynamics that would be interesting to talk about.

SUMMER SECRETS is an entertaining book but also one that will touch your heart... and even make you think. Highly recommended!


bermudaonion said...

This sounds terrific - I can see why you recommend it to book clubs.

Kay said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one. I can see how it would give a book group a lot to discuss, although the subject can certainly be painful. I've had a family member struggle with alcoholism and it does affect everyone - maybe in different ways but it changes how you think about things.