Saturday, November 9, 2019

Summer of '69 (Elin Hilderbrand)

Sometimes I'm a little strange about my reading habits. While many people are curling up by the fireplace with a cozy mystery in November, I am picking up a book by the beach read queen herself, Elin Hilderbrand. That's my way of warding off the chill.

As usual, Summer of '69 is set in Hilderbrand's beloved Nantucket. But what is quite unusual about this one is that it is set in a different time -- a time that included Senator Ted Kennedy and the scandal of Chappaquiddick, a music festival known as Woodstock, and the thrilling landing on the moon. Hilderbrand states in her author's note that she and her twin brother were born the day before the Apollo 11 mission launched, and so this is a very personal book for her.

Each year, the entire Levin family summers in Nantucket, but in 1969, there is trouble on the horizon. Kate is terrified about her son's safety while he is deployed to Vietnam. Kate's eldest, Blair, is in a tumultuous marriage, pregnant with twins, and stuck in Boston. The middle daughter, Kirby, decides to spend her summer on Martha's Vineyard instead where she becomes involved in an interracial relationship, scandalous for the times. The youngest, Jessie, is living in a world of first love and tennis lessons at her grandmother's country club. There are many characters to keep straight, but they are all well developed enough so that we come to care about them as readers.

There is nothing Earth shattering here, but there never is with Hilderbrand's novels. Her books  are reliable reads, but filled with heart. I thought I knew the direction she was taking certain characters at the end, but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't. That is the hallmark of a good novelist.