Summer readers, rejoice! The first true beach book of 2011 is here. Once again Mary Kay Andrews is at the top of her game and undoubtedly will be at the top of the season's reading lists with SUMMER RENTAL, a great novel about life, love and girlfriends set on the popular Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Summer readers, rejoice! The first true beach book of 2011 is here. Once again Mary Kay Andrews is at the top of her game and undoubtedly will be at the top of the season's reading lists with SUMMER RENTAL...
Ellis, Julia and Dorie have been friends seemingly forever. They grew up in Savannah, Georgia, a tight-knit pack of three pretty girls who would do anything for one another. Time has pulled them apart, but at a recent funeral, they come to the decision that they need more than one night (and one pitcher of Cosmos) together. Thus, for the month of August, they will reunite in Nags Head, NC.
Julia is a knockout and has enjoyed a successful career as a model. She has lived with her boyfriend/photographer, Booker, for years in a London flat. At 35, her modeling days are coming to a close. Booker is moving to DC to work for a magazine and wants nothing more than to make Julia his wife. She cannot picture herself playing the role of a real DC housewife, though, and refuses to even consider getting married despite the pleas of her two best girlfriends. Julia needs to learn to listen to her heart and let her head stop worrying about turning into the modern-day version of her recently deceased mother, who spent a lifetime's worth of energies on hearth and home.
Dorie has remained in Savannah where she is a teacher and newlywed. Her husband, Stephen, was supposed to have been the fifth wheel on this trip (her overbearing sister Willa, the fourth), but when she and Julia arrive, they are a twosome. Willa has backed out (along with her much-needed share of the rent), and Stephen's absence is flimsily explained away. But these girls are tight, and it is mere nanoseconds before Ellis and Julia surmise that something is up with Dorie. They're right; and within days she spills not only her own secret but her husband's as well, both of which cloud her future with uncertainty and bring the girls closer together than ever. Dorie needs to adjust her vision of happiness from one that includes a pretty, happy couple to one centered on a strong, independent woman.
Ellis is the planner. The thirty-something unmarried keeper of Kaper chore charts and to-do lists (even on vacation!) has arranged all the details with Mr. Culpepper, the owner of Ebbtide, the ramshackle house perched on the Atlantic that they all end up falling in love with. Shortly before the trip, Ellis was downsized without warning from the Philadelphia bank with which she had spent most of her adult life. She is jobless, on a very tight budget and lonely, barely dating since a post-college marriage collapsed after three months. Her expectations for this month at the beach with her bosom pals are high, sending her need to organize and orchestrate even the smallest detail into overdrive. She needs to relax and discover who she really wants to be.
Maryn Shackleford isn't from Savannah, but from New Jersey. She has fled to the Outer Banks after learning disturbing information about her husband, and has with her only a change of clothes, some pocket money and a laptop bag. In a coincidental turn of events, Maryn meets Dorie over a milkshake at the local luncheonette and Dorie rents her the extra room at Ebbtide, thus solving the summer money issues for the girls. Maryn isn't a mixer, though, and pretty much keeps to herself, frustrating the three good southern girls who just want to be friends and play nice. Maryn has a lot to learn about letting people in and will soon discover how having a few friends can really help and accentuate her life.
Making things a little more interesting is Ty Bazemore. Ty lives in the tiny apartment above Ebbtide's garage and is trying to make a living --- and save his family's home from foreclosure --- by day trading and doing some bartending. The girls are aware of his presence from day one, but for him, Ellis is the only girl present. Ty is more than another tenant at Ebbtide, and as a relationship between him and Ellis ensues and progresses, the "team" pulls together in a last-ditch effort to help Ty prevent his poisonous ex-wife from buying Ebbtide on the courthouse steps. When a job offer threatens to pull Ellis back to her normal, practical, control freak self, Ty faces some big decisions on what he wants to do with the rest of his life.
Mary Kay Andrews does a fantastic job with her setting. Her descriptive narrative is such that you will find yourself looking up from the book and surprised you're not sitting in an old porch rocker overlooking sea oat-topped dunes. She hits the perfect combination of fact and fiction, blending actual details of the area with places of her own invention. If you're an OBX lover, you'll enjoy the unmistakable and familiar atmosphere of these barrier islands without getting bogged down in reality.
SUMMER RENTAL is the perfect book for your beach bag, best read sitting in your favorite chair, toes in the sand, cold drink at hand. If you can't manage that, don't worry: the sights, smells and sounds of the seaside practically zing off the pages, bringing a vacation to you through Andrews's words. It holds plenty of satisfying surprises in store for the reader, including an action-packed finale, and tugs at all the right emotions with a story about the power of friendship --- honest-to-goodness-for-real-friendship. Don't be surprised if, upon finishing it, you find yourself emailing all your lifelong BFFs to begin arranging your own "summer rental."
Reviewed by Jamie Layton on June 7, 2011