Summer, to me, means endless hours out on the porch with a good book in my hand. Moscow mules and page turners, my parents reading nearby. I try and get as much family time in during the summer because, as a teacher, my profession allows me some down time over the summer season. Summer means key lime pie to ring in the fact that I’ve made it another year on this planet and, thankfully, these past few birthdays (as well as my upcoming one) I have plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Nothing spells summer quite like a good read from Elin Hilderbrand and Debbie Macomber. Both of these authors have a simple way of capturing the attention of this reader with their endearing characters and easy going story lines laced with a tinge of genre. Somehow, I always manage to feel connected to the topics discussed within the pages of their novels and I eagerly anticipate a new release from these authors around this time of year.
‘Summer of 69’ by Elin Hilderbrand was, in my opinion, unlike any other book I’ve read by this author. Reflecting on both her success as a writer and the fact that the passage of time has brought her into her fifties, Hilderbrand decided to write a novel that was a tribute, in a sense, to her childhood. This book takes you back to 1969, when the Vietnam War was raging, Americans were protesting the senselessness of it all, and women were confined to the kitchens and living rooms. While Hilderbrand remained true to her typical setting of the Nantucket Island, little else in this novel reminded me of previous works. Through the voices of three daughters and their mother, the reader comes to appreciate what life was like for a woman in 1969. Stepping into new territory with this fantastic historical novel, Hilderbrand continues with the tradition of shadowing a family full of complex characters. Blair, the oldest daughter struggles to maintain her dignity as she navigates the waters of marriage and rapidly learns that the plans she had for her own career are perhaps not going to pan out the way she’d intended. Kirby, the rebel child within the family, is haunted by a mistake made in her recent past. Eager to escape the humiliation of her own inner demons, takes a job on Martha’s Vineyard and finds herself embroiled in both politics and race while there. Thirteen year old Jessie is coming into womanhood, quite literally, while feeling out of place in her own skin and incapable of discussing with anyone what’s running through her mind. The mother figure in this novel, normally the character in Hilderbrand’s novels who holds all the seams together, is in a depressed fog as she worries about her son, Tiger, who is fighting in the Vietnam War. Mixed in with this fear is a tense relationship with her own mother and the sense that her past is going to come back to bite her in the most vulnerable of places.
Beautifully written, ‘Summer of 69’ was a book I could not set down and one I read late into the night. ‘Window On The Bay’ by Debbie Macomber is a slightly more simplistic read but, at its core, there’s a story worth reading. Now that I’m in my late twenties, I can look back and reflect on my college days. My relationship with my mother has always been a relatively strong one and I know that my going off to college was difficult for her. Therefore, the story line of Jenna in ‘Window On The Bay’ was one that I instantly could tie myself to. Jenna, a single mother, has been putting her dreams on the back burner quite willingly throughout the duration of her children’s childhoods. But now that her youngest daughter, Allie, is off to college, Jenna finds herself determined to tick of some things on her bucket list. Falling in love with a doctor she works with? Well, that was never quite in the plans. But her relationship with the surgeon becomes complicated by both of their pasts, as well as, both of their present day circumstances. Her daughter Allie, it seems, is not adjusting to college life the way that Jenna had hoped she would and this also places a strain on Jenna’s relationship with Rowan. Meanwhile, Jenna’s best friend Maureen- also a single parent- has decided that remaining single for the rest of her life is what fate intended. As a librarian, she can have all the relationships that she wants with the men in her books. But when Logan, a real life man, walks into her life every Monday to ask for a new book recommendation, Maureen finds herself starting to change her own mind about staying single. In true Macomber fashion, the reader is reminded about what is most important when it comes to matters of the heart.
*Thanks to Book of The Month, I was able to read Summer of 69 early. Summer of 69 releases June 18th. And a special thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine books for my advanced reader copy of ‘Window On The Bay’ which releases July 16th