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The Identicals


The Identicals

Secrets, lies, gossip, resentment and family relationships are just some of the issues that Elin Hilderbrand focuses on in her 19th novel set on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Longtime readers of Hilderbrand’s books already will be accustomed to her Nantucket flair, but here readers get a taste of Martha’s Vineyard as well. Thetwo islands are only 11 miles apart, and everyone knows everyone’s business on Martha’s Vineyard, where rumors fly rampant.

Tabitha and Harper Frost are identical twins but couldn’t be any more different. No one can tell them apart, not even their own mother, Eleanor. When Eleanor and Billy, their father, divorced when the twins were just 17 years old, they were split up among their parents. Tabitha lives with her mom on Nantucket, and Harper lives with Billy on Martha’s Vineyard…11 miles apart. Tabitha inherits Eleanor’s traits and is her mother through and through. She also works in Eleanor’s Nantucket boutique. From her parenting skills to her personal tastes, Tabitha is just like Eleanor, the iconic fashion designer who is “impeccable, dignified and refined.” Harper, on the other hand, is “laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot, and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable.” She also can’t seem to hold a job, and everyone on the island seems to know all of her business.

"I’ve read several books by Elin Hilderbrand, and I think THE IDENTICALS is her best one yet. From the very start, her descriptions of life on both islands are rich and full of detail."

And then there’s Ainsley, Tabitha’s 16-year-old troublesome and rebellious daughter who has her own issues. Her biggest problem is that Tabitha is “a piss-poor parent,” doesn’t set boundaries and treats her like an adult instead of a teenager. Ainsley’s actions cause her to be perpetually grounded or to have her phone taken away. She also works in her grandmother’s boutique with Tabitha, and since she was a baby, she has been dressed in nothing but the best designer clothes and is very privileged. Hilderbrand makes you want to slap Ainsley’s face as she describes her as a spoiled teenager. At the same time, she clearly throws in some great descriptions of parenting skills throughout the book that should be paid attention to. Brava, Ms. Hilderbrand! As a parent myself, I always say to discipline is to love, and her characters do a great job of bringing this point to life.

In the beginning of the story, the reader learns that Billy has passed away, and the Frost family is shattered. Eleanor, Tabitha and Ainsley attend the memorial service on Martha’s Vineyard. The twins haven’t seen each other in 14 years due to a falling-out they had, and they only speak via text. Their hearts hurt, but neither budges to repair the damage.

In the meantime, Eleanor falls and needs surgery, and her sister comes and stays with her in Boston as she convalesces. Harper inherits Billy’s house and decides she’d like to have it knocked down instead of fixing it up and selling it. Obviously, she’ll split the inheritance money with Tabitha, but Tabitha wants to fix it up as it’s been a long-time dream of hers to take on a project such as this. It’s the perfect time for the twins to switch islands and lives. Harper agrees to take care of Ainsley and see that she goes to school and work at the boutique. The boutique is floundering and ready to go under, but she and Ainsley manage to save it. Tabitha does a beautiful job on Billy’s house, and the sisters are extremely happy with the way it turns out.

While the twins are switching lives and living on each other’s islands, people mistake their identities, and the secrets, lies and gossip they thought they’d left behind on their respective islands follow them. But the real problem between the sisters all these years is that Tabitha blames Harper for the death of her three-month old son, Julian, who passed away 14 years ago. Will Harper and Tabitha finally be able to reconcile and put a permanent end to their sibling rivalry?

I’ve read several books by Elin Hilderbrand, and I think THE IDENTICALS is her best one yet. From the very start, her descriptions of life on both islands are rich and full of detail. She clearly did her research regarding Martha’s Vineyard and describes it to a tee just the way she does for her beloved Nantucket. She writes cleverly and leaves no stone unturned, thinking everything through so methodically, and her imagination is endless. I can’t get enough of this author, and I’m glad she writes two novels a year.

Reviewed by Vivian Payton on June 15, 2017

The Identicals
by Elin Hilderbrand

  • Publication Date: February 20, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316375217
  • ISBN-13: 9780316375214