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Summer of '69


Summer of '69

The queen of the summer read has done it again. Elin Hilderbrand’s books just keep getting better and better. Her first historical novel packs a lot of punch and rich detail, which longtime readers will know is her signature style. In SUMMER OF ’69, Hilderbrand writes about the Levin family and their ups and downs, drama, intrigue and secrets. This summer is like no other for them as it’s a time of disruption, upheaval and change.

Kate and her late husband, Wilder Foley, have three children. Every summer, this trio visits their grandmother, Exalta (or “Nonny”), at her historic home on Nantucket. This year, though, things just aren’t the same.

"SUMMER OF ’69 brings you down memory lane, and you will be singing the songs of yesteryear in your mind, which is the most fun part of this book."

Kate’s oldest daughter, Blair, who lives in Boston, is as huge as a house as she’s pregnant with twins and can’t make the trip this year; Kirby, who loves the whirlwind of protesting for civil rights and strongly believes in feminism, is determined to be independent and is moving to Martha’s Vineyard; Tiger, her only son, is drafted and deployed to Vietnam; and the youngest, 13-year-old Jessie, who is Kate’s daughter with her second husband, David, is learning all about herself and what’s most important in life as a young teen. This year, Jessie gets to go to Nantucket with her mother and grandmother, the latter of whom is not the most warm and fuzzy person. She worries about how she will survive the whole summer with them and later learns that they’re both harboring secrets. Adding even more drama to the mix are Bill Crimmins; his daughter, Lorraine; and her son, Pick.

Hilderbrand wrote SUMMER OF ’69 to capture real-life events that took place when she and her twin brother were born. According to the Author’s Note at the end of the book, the week of their births was the same week that Apollo 11 was launched into space. She goes on to explain: “The weekend after we were born was the weekend of the Chappaquiddick incident, which was of enormous interest to the nation but even more so to the residents of Massachusetts. The atmosphere of the country in the summer of 1969 was tumultuous: Nixon was a new president, the war in Vietnam was raging right along with protests against that war, civil rights and women’s lib were hot topics, and Woodstock was planned as a tribute to the nation’s youth, who wanted peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll.”

Hilderbrand uses all of these historic issues that were taking place in the U.S. at that time, and incorporates and weaves them into her story. The depth of her research is awe-inspiring; I felt like I was reliving history, and it brought back a ton of memories. Cleverly, she introduces songs from that time period as her chapter titles, alternating her characters as she builds upon each of them. Every time I began a new chapter, I’d start singing the song as soon as I read it. SUMMER OF ’69 brings you down memory lane, and you will be singing the songs of yesteryear in your mind, which is the most fun part of this book.

I have never read an uninteresting Elin Hilderbrand novel; they are all phenomenal and simply unputdownable. I love how she ties up all the loose ends so effortlessly. Her books are so well-written and thought out, her research is meticulous and resourceful, her characters have spunk and moxie, and landscapes are so vivid and in-depth due to her artistry and talent in making readers’ imaginations come alive. She keeps you riveted and wanting to turn the pages.

As always, I eagerly await with great anticipation Hilderbrand’s next book, which will be WHAT HAPPENS IN PARADISE (the second installment in her Winter in Paradise series), releasing in October 2019. After that, I hope we see a sequel to SUMMER OF ’69. It just wouldn’t be summer without an Elin Hilderbrand book to read on the beach!

Reviewed by Vivian Payton on June 21, 2019

Summer of '69
by Elin Hilderbrand