Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.
No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.
My Thoughts: In alternating narratives, we meet each of the family members as they approach their final summer in the Rhode Island vacation home. At the beginning of their week together, none of the adult children know of their parents’ plans to sell the house. They approach the week as one of many, remembering summers in the past and envisioning more in the future.
Clem is still suffering from her loss; Sam and Evan struggle with the adoption issues that might not work out for them; and Paige is worried about how distant her husband David has been. Then there are Paige’s teen children, Emma and Ned, each behaving in ways that signal trouble ahead.
As the week unfolds, with the party approaching, we wonder if they would have different thoughts on the lives they took for granted, once they know what their parents have planned. Will their memories and feelings seem more precious to them in light of the upcoming change?
Before their awareness, however, they interact like the siblings that grew up together: fierce, competitive, and sometimes brash. But when forced to consider the alternative of never spending the summers in the house, they seem to mellow out, calm down, and come up with a solution. The Summer House was a somewhat predictable, yet still engaging family story that kept me wondering how they would deal with the changes ahead. 4.5.