Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: The Summer House

Summary: When Flossy Merrill summons her children to the beloved family beach house to celebrate their father’s eightieth birthday, both cherished memories and long-kept secrets come to light in this charming and lyrical novel from the author of The Lake Season and Mystic Summer.

Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.

No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves. Featuring McKinnon’s “sharp and evocative” (Kirkus Reviews) voice, this warm-hearted novel is perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Mary Alice Monroe. -- Emily Bestler Books

I can't believe how quickly the summer is flying by. It's almost August and that means sending my daughter off to college -- Ack! I was looking at the pile of books that I need to review, and I decided that I better feature another one of those "beach" books that I read while on vacation. (I think this might be the last breezy read for a few weeks.) The novel is THE SUMMER HOUSE by Hannah McKinnon, and it's a good one.

THE SUMMER HOUSE tells the story of the Merrill family. The matriarch, Flossy, asks all three of three of her adult children to come to their Rhode Island beach house to celebrate their father's 80th birthday. They agree to come, albeit a bit begrudgingly, and Flossy attempts to bring them all together for one final summer vacation at their summer home.

It would only make for fun fiction if the family is somewhat dysfunctional... and Ms. McKinnon doesn't disappoint. Everyone in this book is dealing with some issues. Clementine is probably the most troubled child. She is the youngest daughter and mother of two young kids and has recently lost her husband in a surprising tragedy. Samuel is her son who is also dealing with some pain. He and his partner Evan want to adopt a child, and the process has been extremely disappointing. Finally, there's Paige, the eldest child, who does her best to control her life (and everyone else's around her.) She's also dealing with some serious stuff but does her best to hide it.

Flossy knows all three of her children are hurting, and she hopes this summer vacation helps them to heal. However, she also plans on selling the house and isn't quite sure how her kids will take the news. Knowing it's the final summer in that home, everyone reflects on their childhood memories and discovers what's truly important in their lives.

I really enjoyed THE SUMMER HOUSE! I am always drawn to books about dysfunctional families, and the Merrill family definitely fit the bill. Of course, the beach location didn't hurt -- and by that I mean the setting of the story and where I was when I read the book! I appreciated each of the characters' plights, and I liked that they were somewhat complex characters. Each one of them definitely had their faults, but I still managed to feel sympathy for all of them.

One thing I thought the author did really well was explore sibling relationships. These three children, despite being adults, were still holding onto some major issues from the past. It was a little surprising to me how much they cared about, what seemed to me to be, minor incidents from their childhoods; however, I do think there was some reality in their actions. It seemed like the minute they entered that beach house, they returned to their childhood personas.

What I appreciated even more, though, was that they continued to grow and evolve as adults throughout the course of the novel. I will admit at the out start that they were all a bit self-centered -- some more than others and some for better reasons than others, but they eventually came around and realized how much they loved (and needed) each other. While the drama surrounding their lives was pretty entertaining, I liked that the book ended in a touching (and satisfying) way.

THE SUMMER HOUSE would make a great book club book. There is a reading guide with 15 questions in the back of the book, but I couldn't find an on-line link. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include loss, aging, the house as a character, healing, second chances, family traditions, and emotional baggage.

I found THE SUMMER HOUSE to be a terrific beach read. It will definitely appeal to fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Dorothea Benton Frank, and I think it's a great addition to your pool or beach bag!

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


bermudaonion said...

I do love dysfunctional families so this really appeals to me.

Karlie said...

This looks like a good read!