After her daughter’s broken engagement and the news that
her daughter’s ex-fiancé has died in a rock climbing
accident, Birdie Cousins rallies her troops around the wounded
Chess and embarks on a month-long getaway to tranquil Tuckernuck
Island, just off the coast of Nantucket, to the family cottage that
has sat abandoned for many years. Birdie, in her 50s and recently
divorced, has been getting her life back together after an
acrimonious divorce from her lawyer husband, Grant, whom she refers
to as the “Devil’s attorney.” She has even begun
dating again and has found a wonderful companion in Hank Dunlap.
Just as everything seems to be fitting into place, her world comes
crashing down. Or rather, her daughter Chess’s world, and as
always, Birdie is right there to help Chess in any way she can.
The getaway to the old family cottage on Tuckernuck was supposed
to be a pre-wedding bonding trip for Birdie and Chess. Despite her
best efforts, Birdie and her oldest daughter were never very close.
Chess, a Type-A overachiever, became the editor of Glamorous
Home magazine before her 30th birthday. Now, at 32, she is
suffering the deepest pain she has ever endured and feels that
it’s all her fault. She called off the marriage and now
Michael is dead. No one knows the reason behind her breaking off
the engagement. Chess is harboring a secret that is tearing her
apart inside. Upon hearing the horrible news of Michael’s
death, Chess shaves off her beautiful long blonde hair, adding to
her gaunt and frail appearance, and suddenly quits her job. The
always empathetic Birdie recognizes this as a woman who is in
Helping Chess to heal is going to require many hands, so Birdie
enlists her younger daughter, Tate, who grew up as a computer whiz
tomboy in Chess’s very girlie shadow. Tate travels the world
as a consultant but can’t seem to forget the only boy she
ever really loved. And he lives on Tuckernuck Island. As a teen,
Barrett Lee, the handsome son of groundskeeper Chuck Lee, never had
much time for Tate. He was too busy pining after Chess. But now,
Tate is a successful woman in her own right and is determined to
let Barrett know how she feels. She only hopes that he
doesn’t still have feelings for Chess.
Also accompanying the Cousins family is Aunt India,
Birdie’s sister, a well-respected art curator at the
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and widow of one of
America’s premier sculptors. Her husband, Bill, committed
suicide 15 years earlier, leaving her to raise their three sons
alone. Rather than giving in to despair, which seemed like the most
logical solution at the time, she persevered and is now one of the
most respected people on the Philadelphia arts scene.
Each of the women is in a different stage of transition --- one
reeling from a broken engagement and a death, one trying to reclaim
her life after a devastating divorce, another trying to carve her
way in the world and take a chance on love, and a fourth still
healing after the shocking suicide of her husband years before.
They don’t realize it as they embark on this vacation, but
each has the power to heal themselves and help one another as well.
And being on Tuckernuck, without phones, the Internet and
distractions, is key in helping them get back to what is real and
what is true. The whole point of the island, as Birdie has always
said, is “to live simply,” and in doing that, the women
come away stronger for it.
As she does in most of her Cape-set novels, Elin Hilderbrand
espouses the restorative powers of a little sea air, some sand
between your toes, and the love of good friends and family. Her
previous eight novels were all set on Nantucket, but for this, her
ninth, she takes readers to a little-known island off the coast,
just a little slip of an island where the outside world can’t
intrude. And against the scenic backdrops of warm sunsets and
wafting bonfires, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested, and
bonds are reaffirmed. Hilderbrand’s summertime novels have
become a staple of the season --- as welcome and enjoyable as
summer vacation itself.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 22, 2011
- Publication Date: July 6, 2010
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
- ISBN-10: 0316043877
- ISBN-13: 9780316043878