Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: The Summer of Good Intentions

Summary: Cape Cod summers are supposed to remain reassuringly the same, but everything falls apart when three sisters and their families come together for their annual summer vacation—and they are carrying more secrets than suitcases.

Maggie is the oldest. She feels responsible for managing the summer house and making sure everything is as it always has been. But she’s hurt that her parents’ recent divorce has destroyed the family’s comfortable summer routines, and her own kids seem to be growing up at high speed. Is it too late to have another baby?

Jess is the middle sister. She loves her job but isn’t as passionate about her marriage. She’s not sure she can find the courage to tell Maggie what she’s done—much less talk to her husband about it.

Virgie is the youngest, her dad’s favorite. She’s always been the career girl, but now there’s a man in her life. Her television job on the west coast is beyond stressful, and it’s taking its toll on her—emotionally and physically. She’s counting on this vacation to erase the symptoms she’s not talking about.

The Herington girls are together again, with their husbands and kids, for another summer in the family’s old Cape Cod house. When their mother, Gloria, announces she’s coming for an unscheduled visit—with her new boyfriend—no one is more surprised than their father, Arthur, who has not quite gotten over his divorce. Still, everyone manages to navigate the challenges of living grown-up lives in close quarters, until an accident reveals a new secret that brings everyone together in heartbreak…and then healing.

Poignant, compelling, and so real that you could shake the sand out of the pages, The Summer of Good Intentions is by a rising star who aims her fiction square at the heart of readers who love Elin Hilderbrand, Dorothea Benton Frank, and Mary Kay Andrews. -- Simon & Schuster

I actually read THE SUMMER OF GOOD INTENTIONS by Wendy Francis the first week of September, but I forgot to review it. I'm not near as organized with review writing as I used to be. I remember selecting it because summer was coming to an end, and I wanted to squeeze in one more "beach" book. This novel was a beach book in that it took place in Cape Cod during the summer; however, it definitely wasn't a light and fluffy read. I am happy to say that this book surprised me with its depth, the complexity of the characters, and the quality of writing -- it was truly a wonderful read.

THE SUMMER OF GOOD INTENTIONS tells the story of the Herington family. The three sisters and their parents spent their summer vacations on Cape Cod making wonderful memories; however, this year things might be tricky. The parents are recently divorced and, due to a scheduling mishap, will both be there at the same time. Their dad has been acting strange ever since the divorce and it's obvious he isn't over their mother. Meanwhile, their mom has moved on and is even bringing her new boyfriend on vacation.

In addition, all three girls are having issues with their lives. Maggie, the eldest, is trying to keep the family intact and create a special time for all of the grandchildren. Jess, the middle daughter, is having marital problems and an emotional affair with her neighbor. And Virgie, the youngest one, is having issues with her television career and her health. Doesn't sound like a very fun vacation, does it?

When a horrible accident occurs and secrets are revealed, the family members find themselves facing a great deal of heartache. As their individual lives seem to be falling apart, can this tragedy allow them to come together as a family and face their challenges together?

I found THE SUMMER OF GOOD INTENTIONS to be a really good book. Even though I thought I wanted an escape read, I am so glad that this book had so much substance. I liked the individual characters (of course, some more than others), and I appreciated their struggles. I loved that the overall messages of the story were so special and actually quite uplifting given the sadness that resonated throughout the novel.

This is the first novel that I've read by Ms. Francis and I have to say it won't be my last. I thought she did a great job of creating interesting characters and an intriguing family dynamic, and the characters in her story seemed to be very real. I wouldn't be surprised if readers find themselves relating to one or more of the characters and their situations.

In addition, I appreciated that Ms. Francis chose to tell the Herington family's story through the different characters' viewpoints. The story was told through the eyes of the three daughters and the father, and it definitely helped me to understand and sympathize more with their characters. Plus, it was interesting to see what was happening to the family as a whole given the different characters' impressions. What really impressed me, though, is that she managed to tell each of the character's stories so well given that she was juggling so many of them.

Finally, I really loved how this novel explored the theme of memory. I don't want to give too much away but the father does experience some signs of dementia in this story; and it causes to reader (or at least this one) to really think about aging and memories. In addition, Maggie is desperately trying to create beautiful memories for the family. So much so, that there is actually a book where the family records their memories each year on vacation. I loved how the theme of memory resonated throughout the story, and I thought the author did an excellent job of making the reader think about the importance of memories in our lives.

THE SUMMER OF GOOD INTENTIONS would make an excellent book club selection. The characters are so interesting and what they are facing is definitely worth some analysis. There is a reading guide with fifteen questions along with some ways to enhance your book club experience. Some of the themes you might want to explore include family dynamics, aging, parent/child relationships, second chances, memories, adultery, marriage, acceptance, and secrets.

I highly recommend THE SUMMER OF GOOD INTENTIONS is you enjoy well written stories about family drama.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Beth F said...

This is *still* on my list. I'll probably be the last person on earth to read it. I like stories about families.

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like there's a lot to love in this one. I can't wait to read it.