Amidst the beautiful and quaint atmosphere of Nantucket, the summer season is about to begin, which means tourists, lobster and endless summer parties. But this particular summer will be like none other, as tragedy finds its way to this tiny island resort.
There was never a closer group of friends than the Wheelers, the Drakes, the Kapenashes and the MacAvoys. Each couple made up their perfect square of friendship. They traveled together and shared many happy times, including their trip to Las Vegas, where they nicknamed their group “the Castaways.” They even shared in bad times --- be it a difficult labor, the loss of a brother on 9/11, or a stifling marriage.
After recent troubles and with their anniversary approaching, Greg and Tess MacAvoy embark on a boating trip that ends tragically, with the two mysteriously drowning. Everyone in their group had been dealing with their own issues, but none as public as the MacAvoys. Greg was a local teacher who recently bore the sting of a former student’s searing accusation. And now, the remaining six --- the friends who had once been so close and shared everything --- have to ask themselves just what happened between Greg and April Peck. And what of Tess’s affair with another member of their circle? How well does anyone really know their friends? In the wake of the young couple’s death, those who remain grapple with their grief and try to soldier on --- if not for their own sanity, then for the MacAvoys’ surviving children.
The unofficial leaders of the Castaways are Eddie, the local police chief, and his wife Andrea. In their 40s and settled in their family life, they provide the moral center and heart of the group. Tess was Andrea’s young cousin, and she was always looking out for her, even saving her from drowning in Dorchester Bay when she was just a young girl. Addison is a wealthy businessman, and Phoebe, his second wife, struggles with a secret pill addiction. There’s also Jeffrey and Delilah, a local farmer and his bar-hopping wife, who just never seem satisfied with island life. Tess and Greg rounded out their group and recently had their very private problems made public. While Greg was accused of having an affair with a former student, what people didn’t know was that Tess was having an affair of her own --- with Addison. So was their mysterious death just an accident as it appeared, or was there something more sinister afoot in this tiny island community?
For her eighth novel, Elin Hilderbrand once again returns to the beautiful island of Nantucket as her setting. This time out, she cleverly adds a layer of suspense and intrigue to what might have been just standard beach-reading fare. And through this additional element, the story is allowed to explore the sometimes thorny topics of friendship, betrayal and forgiveness, as well as being an entertaining summer read.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on December 26, 2010