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Enchanted August


Enchanted August

Brenda Bowen’s ENCHANTED AUGUST is coming out at exactly the right time. It's the perfect complement to white wine on a rented cottage porch on a hot July afternoon while dinner is cooking. It's the best book you could take to the beach with you this summer and is filled with just the right amount of impossibly charming characters who are all at a crossroads in their lives and need some serious downtime. The odd mix of folks gives the novel its little tinge of bohemian appeal. At the same time, its traditional English gentry in the countryside by way of Brooklyn to Maine gives it a new perspective that makes us feel as if we are experiencing a bit of old-fashioned literary storytelling that allows some contemporary touches, which help us relate to each of the characters.

How would you respond to this message on a bulletin board at your local co-op?

Hopewell Cottage
Little Lost Island, Maine.
Old, pretty cottage to rent on a small island.
Springwater, blueberries, sea glass.

"...the best book you could take to the beach with you this summer... May ENCHANTED AUGUST find a home on the shelves of your favorite summer place and enjoy years of being jostled from one bag to another..."

Lottie Wilkes, a mother mourning the loss of her marital bed; Rose Arbuthnot, wife of a MacArthur genius and mom to difficult twins; Caroline Dester, the indie movie darling suffering a great public defeat; and Beverly Fisher, an older man recovering from the loss of his life partner, all need to be in this place. Perhaps Caroline could afford it on her own, but no one else can, so together this unholy foursome alight on Little Lost Island in the hopes that four weeks away from the real world will result in a renewal of hope and optimism, and perhaps even change in all their lives. Bowen would be sorely mistaken if we were not thinking that this weird mix of personalities was going to make a big difference in all their lives. It does, but not in the way they all would have expected.

Becoming a better version of the person you already are is an American ideal --- working with what you have to make something even more special. And the small-knit island community gives everyone the sense that this is possible. ENCHANTED AUGUST hits all its marks well and still manages to surprise us in small, happy ways. Bowen writes in a simple, straightforward style, and her love for the life about which she is writing is obvious. This high-powered, successful book publisher and agent turned author has no issues admitting that she has a cottage like Hopewell and an island like Little Lost Island to go to each August. Thus, her love for this place and time and the rejuvenation it provides come through on every page.

With the economy the way it is, it is a rarefied thing to be able to continue this wonderful tradition year after year. (As I write this, my family home on another enchanted island off the coast of Massachusetts may be close to leaving our hold, so this book really struck a chord with me as I fear that my quiet days in our own Hopewell are coming to an end.) May ENCHANTED AUGUST find a home on the shelves of your favorite summer place and enjoy years of being jostled from one bag to another as beachgoing island dwellers everywhere take whatever time they have and savor its story as they are living it.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on July 2, 2015

Enchanted August
by Brenda Bowen

  • Publication Date: July 5, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • ISBN-10: 0143108077
  • ISBN-13: 9780143108078