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Ah, summer vacation! Even the words alone can cheer the most world-weary soul. Memories of smoky barbecues, lingering walks on the beach and warm sand between your toes all minister to one's badly battered spirit. And this is exactly what the Lyndon sisters --- Vicki and Brenda --- along with friend Melanie are counting on when they venture to the family summer house on Nantucket. Each woman is anxiously trying to escape her own life and problems.

Vicki, the driven, thirty-something mother of two, has just been diagnosed with Stage 2 lung cancer. Her doctor hopes that with chemotherapy and possibly surgery they may have a viable shot at remission. Her mother has always sworn that "…any ailment in the world --- physical or emotional --- could be cured by a little Nantucket sand between your toes." This is exactly what Vicki is hoping for.

Vicki's sister, Brenda, has just been let go from her job as a teacher at Champion College, where she had an affair with a handsome male student. The foundation of her career up to that point had been studying a little-known novel of a mediocre Early American writer; now, in the wake of the scandal, her academic career is hanging by a thread. With some encouragement from a writer friend, Brenda hopes she can adapt the book to which she has devoted her life into a screenplay and salvage what's left of her career. A tranquil summer at the beach could help with that. She also realizes she should concentrate on her ailing sister and help her with the children. Can she put her illicit entanglements behind her and focus on what's important?

Melanie is a friend of Vicki's from Darien, Connecticut, where she has left behind her shattered marriage to a cheating husband. And after years of failed in vitro attempts, she's shocked to find herself pregnant. She doesn't want to share this news with her husband just yet --- at least until she can be sure he's left his co-worker girlfriend. Some time away to think is long overdue.

But from the moment the women arrive on the small island, with children in tow, it's anything but peaceful. In fact, it's pure bedlam. Vicki is exhausted and trying to keep her two kids in check. Brenda is obsessing over a lost piece of luggage, and poor Melanie can barely contain her morning sickness. Into this chaos enters Josh Flynn, a 22-year-old local college student who starts working for the women, primarily as a babysitter, but soon becomes an all-important "guy Friday." He's a natural with the little ones, gives Vicki valuable downtime, encourages Brenda with her writing and provides a sympathetic ear to troubled Melanie, who must sort through her feelings and decide if she wants to stay in her marriage.

BAREFOOT has all the ingredients for a perfect summer read: a beautiful setting, conflict, romance, passion, friendship, fear and characters facing unthinkable odds. Elin Hilderbrand once again has chosen the verdant coastline of Nantucket for this, her sixth novel, because she feels it "provides a rich ecological and historical background for her characters." And it certainly provides the reader with a rich jumping-off point to a warm and bittersweet story of friendship and family --- and a little sand between your toes.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 5, 2011

by Elin Hilderbrand

  • Publication Date: January 18, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316018589
  • ISBN-13: 9780316018586