Review by Adrina Palmer
New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season — an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast.
Beatriz Williams has written several novels and now adds a new story to her repertoire. Not just any book, but one that will make you forget other books exist, that life exists. Put a sign on your forehead that reads, “Leave me alone for 367 pages.” ‘The Summer Wives,’ AKA your new favorite book, follows Miranda Schuyler through the loves stories spanning generations on a tiny New England island between the summer families and the locals. Beatriz’s style leaves you desperate to turn another page. How she arranges the words is magical and so descriptive you may believe you are one of the wives visiting the country club and looking for naughty pool boys. The main character is so human she is incapable of seeing how her actions lead to her own demise. Spanning several generations this story catalogs, not just one love affair but love through the ages.
Postwar in 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on the elite Winthrop Island, off the New England coast, just out of school to join high society along with her mother and soon to be stepfather. Her father died in the war leaving her mother open to marry Island royalty, Hugh Fisher. Miranda and her mom arrive just in time for the wedding at the Fisher mansion, The Greyfriars. But we start in 1969 with Miranda hiding several secrets when she returns home for the first time since that fateful summer back in the early ’50s.
Those on the island have not forgotten Miranda, especially now, as she became a famous actress and married to an actor twice her age. Nostalgia comes on strong for her as she remembers the heady world full of cocktails, status, and country clubs. Her memories transport the reader back to the summer of 1951 where she found Hugh had a daughter named Isobel, close to the same age as Miranda. Isobel takes “Peaches” under her wing and introduces her new sibling to the lazy luxurious life of a blue blood. She takes Miranda under her wing and introduces her to the Portuguese fisherman who live at the lighthouse. The seductive son of one of the Islands oldest domestic workers.
Miranda is not used to the privileged life that comes with wealth or the secrets engulfed on land and lean toward Joseph from the lighthouse with his mysterious life and the smell of lobster and salt water. She finds herself drawn to Joseph’s magnetic personality and the mystery behind his parents and his desire to leave his family legacy of fishing behind to attend Brown University in the fall. Miranda delivers messages between Joseph and Isobel even though Isobel is engaged to Clay Monk. But Winthrop is ready for a scandal, one to rock the foundations of the island and everyone on it. Miranda and Isobel are swept up in a catastrophe that tears up not only a family but the island ruining the serenity the island possesses.
For two decades, Miranda remains banished from the island until the island forgives her and Miranda no longer cares about anyone else’s opinion because heartache and pain have sent her home. While no one welcomes her with open arms, Miranda has to settle the pivotal summer once and for all. She returns to find the Fisher family estate in shambles, like the family. The island is the same, a place for the rich to live extravagantly as secrets lay buried deep in the sand including, the location of Joseph who had recently escaped from prison for a murder Miranda was sure he had not committed. Despite his status, and her loss of innocence, Miranda hopes for an opportunity to rekindle their love even if it means opening old wounds and unveiling every secret buried in the sand.
Beatriz reveals secrets like decadent pieces of chocolate being unwrapped one at a time. Every character is as authentic as the naïve Miranda, who allows life to happen to her for far too long. This book is about her taking a stand and finally taking charge of her life and the choices she makes instead of standing to the side while others direct and choreograph her life. She may have taken a long time to stand up but when she does, she takes charge and rights every wrong. What a beautiful sight to behold. Not only her fierce reclaiming of her life but the lush views described in such detail to allow the reader to feel the sand between their toes. The intense story is peppered with laughter, bonding, pain, and love affairs. The perfect book to take to the beach and then keep reading all the way into the wee hours of the night. Amongst the diverse group of characters, you will find someone you identify with and take a piece of this book personally as you relate and understand how someone’s world can spiral out of hand in one short summer. The only fault I can find in this passionate tale spanning decades was a few characters who irritated me and how easy I found solving the mysteries, but I am a warped individual who has read far too many V. C. Andrews novels. Either way, the storytelling is monumental and worth the journey.
Available in bookstores July 10th
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