REVIEW: WINTER STREET, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

 

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Kelley Quinn has been the owner of the Winter Street Inn in Nantucket for several years, and with his second wife Mitzi, has enjoyed the renovations, the gatherings, and especially Christmas at the inn. They have one grown son, Bart, who has joined the Marines and is in Afghanistan.

Kelley’s three older children are grown and in various stages of “disarray.” Patrick, the golden son, has just committed an unthinkable act; Kevin, a bartender, has just gotten his secret girlfriend pregnant; and Ava, frustrated because her boyfriend treats her like a comfortable shoe and takes her for granted, has some soul-searching to do.

Margaret, the mother to this brood, has done well and is a TV anchorperson.

What happens on the night before Christmas that will change everything for Kelley? How will his worries about the debts and the cost of running the inn change how he views his new normal? And what surprising events will occur after Margaret unexpectedly comes to spend Christmas?

I loved how the story unfolded through the multiple narrations of Kelley, Margaret, Patrick, Kevin, and Ava. As I followed the stories of the characters, I could feel the Christmas spirit surrounding them all in this lovely place as they struggled through their various issues.

Winter Street felt like a place of comfort for all, with nostalgic feelings of Christmases past lending a spirit of hopefulness. However, the story just ended, with so much to resolve and a lot left up in the air. Despite the comfort of the read up to that point, the ending left me disappointed and stunned. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: SUMMERLAND, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

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While many people think of Nantucket Island as a land of “wealth and privilege, a summer playground for those with a certain prep-school, old money, I-used-to-row-with-him-on-the-Charles type of pedigree,” others know that Nantucket is a real place, populated by real people: Year round residents whose lives unfolded quietly or dramatically, depending on the moment.Our story, Summerland: A Novel, takes us behind the scenes of those real world moments, beginning on a warm June night, when, after various graduation parties, four young people crashed in a devastating car accident that took one young woman’s life, left her twin brother in a coma, and changed life in the foreseeable future for everyone on the island.Penny Alistair, who was not drinking, was driving boyfriend Jake Randolph’s car, with two other passengers: Demeter Castle and Hobby Alistair, Penny’s twin. Eventually, Hobbie awakens from his coma to find his world drastically changed and his sports career over.

What set Penny on that dangerous course of action? Why was she driving so erratically, almost as if she wanted to die? What had Demeter told her in the dunes when they went there privately, just before that final car ride?

In the rest of the story, we slowly learn some answers…and have more questions.

We also discover more about the interior worlds of the parents, as well as the children. Zoe Alistair, single mom and a talented chef, has been having a secret affair with Jordan Randolph, Jake’s father, and the owner of the local newspaper. Lynn and Al Castle, Demeter’s parents, are caught up in their civic-minded world and blind to their daughter’s self-destructive bent. Ava, Jake’s mother and Jordan’s wife, spends most of her time in her dead son Ernie’s room, mourning his loss to SIDS at age eight weeks…and blaming her husband.

What I loved most about this story was that it is so much more than a beach read. Instead, it explores themes of relationships, conflicts, errors in judgment, and lost dreams. And while we are following along with the drama of the characters, the author shows us the settings, even allows us to drool over Zoe’s wonderful and creative culinary treats, and takes us along to enjoy a brief stint in Australia, where Jordan, Ava, and Jake go for a while after the accident.

The tale was so layered, transporting us back to the “beginning” of each character’s story as we follow that character’s narrative. Definitely a memorable book. 4.5 stars.