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Last Summer at the Golden Hotel


Last Summer at the Golden Hotel

With her talent for creating well-crafted characters and skill for writing dreamy settings, Elyssa Friedland returns with LAST SUMMER AT THE GOLDEN HOTEL, a delightful mashup of “Schitt’s Creek” and Dirty Dancing.

In its heyday, the Golden Hotel was the destination for families heading to the Catskills to escape the scorching heat of the city and make some lifelong memories. Owned by childhood best friends Benny Goldman and Amos Weingold, it was known for its family-friendly but quietly luxurious break from reality, complete with endless gefilte fish and borscht. Benny and Amos were a perfect pair, savvy businessmen who made up for what they lacked in book smarts with genuine charm and an ability to bounce back from mistakes 10 times smarter than they were before. Hosting the crowds of families that frequented the Golden alongside them were their wives, Louise and Fanny; and their children: the Weingold twins (Brian and Peter) and Aimee Goldman.

"[Friedland] dishes out details so well, you are certain that she is currently hiding out at the hotel herself, writing down descriptions as she sees them."

Decades later, Benny has died and Brian is calling the shots at the Golden, with Amos and Fanny taking a backseat to let the future generations of Goldmans and Weingolds take the reins. But interest in the Catskills has dwindled over time, a result of the three As: air conditioning, a modern marvel that makes a mountain escape unnecessary; airfare, which has made previously unimaginable destinations accessible for all; and assimilation for Jewish families no longer barred from visiting other resorts and hotels. For years the Goldmans and Weingolds have watched their neighboring competitors crumble, either under the financial strain of necessary renovations or the lack of guests, with three overstuffed guest books becoming one almost full one. The Golden has hung on...but just barely.

When Brian receives an offer to sell the Golden --- and all the headaches that come with it --- it’s tempting to give up and start fresh, but he isn’t the only one calling the shots. As best friends and partners, Benny and Amos made a pact that gave their families 50/50 ownership and set up a legal clause stating that 66% of the owners must agree to a sale before it can take place. This means that Brian must solicit the opinions of Fanny and Amos, Peter, Aimee and the Goldman/Weingold grandchildren: stoner Zach, Instagram influencer Phoebe, closeted Michael and lovelorn Maddie. With three generations of the families on the property together for the first time in years --- and their own dramas brewing in the background --- the Golden is about to experience an upswing in drama, love affairs and epic meltdowns. The final catch? The Goldmans and Weingolds have five days to pare down decades of memories, dreams, betrayals and affairs into one life-changing decision.

As the families start to discuss the future of the Golden (because even if they don’t sell, it’s obvious that changes must be made), a clear divide occurs between the younger generation, set on transforming the resort into something that will draw scores of millennials and instagrammers, and the original set, tied to their memories of how things used to be. To add a little flavor to the mix, each member of each family is grappling with their own conflict: Aimee has just learned that her perfect doctor husband is very likely going to prison; Zach is certain that he’s falling for Phoebe; Maddie is itching for an engagement that may or may not be coming; and the original founders of the hotel are desperate to hold on to their longest-lasting achievement. In true Elyssa Friedland fashion, LAST SUMMER AT THE GOLDEN HOTEL is a pitch-perfect dramedy with plenty to love, laugh about and cringe at.

With so many generations of family on the scene, the book is rife with uncomfortable --- and swoony --- interactions, but it’s a real case of the whole being even greater than the sum of its parts. Each character is wonderfully fleshed out and realized, but it is their overall assembly (and Friedland’s jaw-dropping ability to handle them all) that propels the narrative, pulls at your heartstrings and makes LAST SUMMER the perfect read for this summer. Just as she did in THE FLOATING FELDMANS, Friedland capably sets the scene, but somehow the Golden is even more dreamy and alluring than the cruise ship at the heart of her previous book. She dishes out details so well, you are certain that she is currently hiding out at the hotel herself, writing down descriptions as she sees them. From the glory of its heyday to the crumbling state of its disrepair, she never misses a beat, and the Golden comes to act as its own character, with a deeply satisfying character arc.

You must experience Friedland's novel for yourself. Her characters are well-rounded, and every reader is sure to find himself or herself within at least one of them (hi, I’m Aimee), but it is the drama and comedy of every interaction that make this book --- and the Golden Hotel --- utterly unforgettable.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on May 28, 2021

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
by Elyssa Friedland

  • Publication Date: May 18, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0593199723
  • ISBN-13: 9780593199725