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Review: Summer House by Nancy Thayer

summer houseTitle: Summer House

Author: Nancy Thayer

Genre/Pages: Fiction/368

Publication: Ballantine Books; 6/23/09

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

On a few acres of her Nona’s beachfront property in Nantucket, Charlotte Wheelwright operates an organic garden and farm stand, self-imposed exile for a transgression that comes to light at the end of this thoroughly enjoyable read.

Nancy Thayer’s honest and captivating novel examines the family dynamic over several generations.  From the first page, I was hooked.  Told from the third person omniscient point of view, we are able to see into the minds of the three main women characters–Charlotte, Nona, and Helen, Nona’s daughter-in-law and Charlotte’s mother.  We are also given a window to Nona’s past, through stategic flashbacks.  This narrative style helps to give readers and understanding of motivations and behaviors.

Summer House examines the relationships between the extended members of the Wheelwright clan, a well-to-do banking family with roots in Boston and Nantucket.  Thayer develops her characters and the conflicts–both internal and external–that they face are realistic and I could relate to them.

The group gathers on Nantucket three times during the course of the summer—once to usher in matriarch Anne ‘Nona’ Wheelwright’s 90th birthday, once for Charlotte’s brother’s wedding, and once for the annual Family Meeting.

Nona, as she is known to her children and grandchildren, has lately taken to spending most of her time in the comforting bubble of her memories, while her son and daughter and their children and grandchildren, struggle with infidelity, divorce, children, dating, petty jealousy, and all the other things that families deal with.  Nona survived her own personal struggles and is now left to reminisce and reap the goodness that family brings.

As with all families, there are a few secrets that come to light as the novel progresses.  Why has Charlotte abruptly left the family banking business to do hard, manual labor in an organic garden?  What is Charlotte’s father hiding from her mother?  Is Charlotte’s brother, Teddy, able to get his act together to take on the new responsibility?  What secret is Nona keeping?

Summer House is a relatively quick read with good pacing and an entertaining story line.  It’s meatier than a standard chick-lit novel, and for that I was thankful.  It really is a story about families and coming to terms with the fact that different people, even though they may be related, can have different ideas and opinions.  Being family is the glue that holds the variety of personalities together.

Nancy Thayer is an accomplished author with scores of published works to her name.  I look forward to picking up some of her earlier works and am interested in reading her daughter’s new book.

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to read this book!

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