REVIEW: A NANTUCKET WEDDING, BY NANCY THAYER

 

A few years after losing her beloved husband, Alison is doing something she never thought she would do again: getting married. While placing the finishing touches on her summer nuptials, Alison is anxious to introduce her fiancé, David, to her grown daughters: Felicity, a worried married mother of two, and Jane, also married but focused on her career. The sisters have a somewhat distant relationship and Alison hopes that the wedding and the weeks leading up to the ceremony will give the siblings a chance to reconnect, as well as meet and get to know David’s grown children.

As the summer progresses, it is anything but smooth sailing. Felicity stumbles upon a terrible secret that could shatter her carefully cultivated world. Jane finds herself under the spell of her soon-to-be stepbrother, Ethan, who is as charming as he is mysterious. And even Alison is surprised (and slightly alarmed) by her new blended family. Revelations, intrigue, resentments—as the Big Day approaches, will the promise of bliss be a bust?

My Thoughts: In her inimitable style, Thayer takes the reader to a lovely setting in A Nantucket Wedding. At the moment of the union between this fascinating couple, she also brings us right into the family, with all the issues that come along when the joining of two brings about a blending of assorted personalities, each with their own expectations and conflicts.

David Gladstone, a wealthy man, is about to step back from his business, but when his petulant daughter Poppy asserts herself about the business and his personal assets, he and Alison have to very tactfully, yet assertively, set some boundaries. Additionally, David’s handsome son Ethan presents numerous challenges as he flirts outrageously with whatever woman strikes his fancy.

Meanwhile, Alison’s daughters are dealing with issues within their marriages, bringing to light some concerns that might jeopardize those unions.

Can a wedding in a beautiful setting help them all face and deal with these issues? Will the upcoming nuptials remind them of their own romantic unions, or will those very beautiful moments only emphasize their jarring differences?

I loved the book, the setting, and how the author revealed those true-to-life conflicts that all families have at times.

I enjoyed Alison’s efforts at nurturing and peace-making. I also liked watching Jane and Scott figure out how they could solve their own problems going forward.

I did not like Noah, Felicity’s husband, who revealed himself to be smug and offensive with those who did not share his moral high ground regarding the environment, and then turned on a dime when someone offered what he wanted.

Could any or all of them come out of the romantic event with their families intact? Would the event itself be a reminder of what they all could learn to love about one another? 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE, BY ZOE WHITTALL

The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes.

Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct with students from his daughter’s school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence, Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast—and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning of The Best Kind of People, I felt drawn into the lives of the Woodburys, especially Sadie and Joan. Their reactions to the events that unfolded felt real and spoke to how one might experience being blindsided in such a way.

Multiple narrators, including Joan, Sadie, Andrew, and Kevin brought out the way a community and a family are impacted by an arrest of a beloved individual. How should any of them feel? Should the family give unwavering support to a man who might be guilty? Should all who knew him for years be immediately on his side? Would the media presence affect how they reacted?

Visiting George in prison was another shock to reality for those whose previous experiences did not prepare them for this new normal.

How does Kevin’s new novel change how others view him? Can Sadie find a way to interpret the betrayals she sees all around her? Will she find a way to deal with those who believe that her family is somehow tainted by her father?

The activists were the most disturbing aspect for me, as the tendency to blame feminism for the allegations of the girls struck a wrong chord with me. While I did not necessarily believe the girls, since, despite what the proponents of victims’ rights might claim, teenage girls do occasionally lie, I could not align myself with those who slapped such a label on their cause.

In the end, the trial seemed to happen off stage, just as much of George’s experiences seemed separate from what everyone else was going through. As a result, the outcome felt flat and tepid. I was no longer at all sure about what was true or how to feel. 4.5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: FALLING INTO PLACE, BY AMY ZHANG

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Enter the teen world in small town Meridian, where who your friends are can define you.

But sometimes, as our MC Liz Emerson discovers, that world can be stultifying and can turn you into the kind of person you hate. Hating herself, after years of being the popular, pretty one, Liz decides to crash her car, to kill herself in what looks like an accident.

You know what they say about best laid plans. Falling into Place weaves between the past and the present in a somewhat unpredictable fashion: Five months before the crash, # hours or days before the crash, etc. But as the story circles back and forth, we are offered a glimpse of who Liz was, who she has become, and what events in her life created her.

Yes, she was definitely an unlikeable character, as were most of her friends. Looking at their world, I was reminded of my own teen years, but back then, we had different challenges. Different obstacles. But the core of them is the same. We all long to be liked, we wish we could change the mistakes we’ve made, and we suffer in silence rather than share our feelings.

Sometimes I just wanted to be done with this story. It was sad, it was frustrating, and in so many ways, it reminded me of every other YA book I have read (not that many, to be sure). Troubled kids, bad choices, and mean streaks a mile long.

Bullying comes up, too, and then I realize that Liz’s moments of introspection have led her to believe there is no redemption for her. And now I begin to empathize with her. I realize that she feels helpless in the face of all she has done…and doesn’t believe that anything can change that for her.

An interesting twist: the story is narrated by an unknown someone.

In the end, we are left with questions: what will Liz do? Is there hope for her after all? Definitely a book that will leave me thinking about the big issues in life. 4.0 stars.