Here we go! Another summertime novel set on Cape Cod. I AM LOVING these beach reads.
In The Summer of Good Intentions, the three Herington sisters and their families spend a few weeks at their beach house on the Cape. They don’t anticipate that the gradual changes that have been happening in the past year will all come to a head right there at the beach.
I liked these women and their families – but surprisingly I liked their spouses even more. Francis wrote sympathetic but realistic male characters, which is refreshing in a world of literary men that are either too perfect, too cynical, brutish, or just plain silly.
There are some sad parts of this book. There’s a hint at Alzheimer’s, a house fire, the diagnosis of a chronic and incurable disease, and a death. But there’s also beautiful reconciliation of a marriage, a promising new romance, and a children’s unrivaled gift to their mother.
I love reading books set in a familiar locale, so when I saw that Tiny Little Thing was set in the Boston area and Cape Cod, I knew I had to read it. I grew up in southeastern Massachusetts and spent many a summer day on the family beaches at the Cape.
Tiny, a well-bred dancer who marries a well-bred politician, finds herself unfulfilled and held back. She wants to escape, but is conflicted about appearing callous or selfish to her in-laws who have ostensibly given her the keys to fame and fortune.
A niggling thought just won’t let go, though. Her in-laws are hiding something. As Tiny uncovers family secrets, she also peels away her fear of the unknown. With the help of those who truly love her, Tiny takes a leap out of the family’s political circus and into her own big life.
So I didn’t love that this was set in the ’60s – I can’t relate – I wasn’t even born yet! And I hated that Tiny was portrayed as such a “victim” who needed to be saved. But I appreciated the redeeming values of her husband, and the gentle respect of the Captain.
My favorite thing about this family saga/romance is that Williams explored Tiny’s relationship with her sister Pepper. While restoring an old car, they restored their sisterhood. Williams even brought their mother in full-circle at the end. I like that she tied up loose ends.
And even though Tiny wasn’t exactly the best example of a strong woman who knows her mind, she was a good woman, rescued over and over by a good man, and that’s my kind of happily ever after.
I generally don’t read children’s fiction, but I wanted to read Nest to get an idea of the usefulness of a book about children grieving. I can report with confidence this: I believe Nest would be helpful for 10-14 year olds with a mentally unstable or absent parent. They would see they are not alone, people grieve and cope in myriad ways, and anger is natural. Young readers could see that maintaining connections — family ties, friendships, or even looser relationships — help distract as well as move a person through his or her bucketful of emotions. Moving forward is key.
That’s my opinion as a mother and a former schoolteacher.
My emotional response to Nest was pretty much bawling my eyes out. A child without two loving parents just kills me… though I know it is so, so common. I felt for Chirp and her sister, for Chirp’s friends Dawn and Joey… Why did they have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be upended?
Yet they found ways to cope. They found ways to hope. They found ways to stick together to fill up a little bit of what was missing.
Nest is well-written, from the sentence structure to the easy flow to the authentic characters. The only niggling detail was about prayer: the author had Chirp uncomfortable saying grace before a meal, or saying the name Jesus. But I’m pretty sure Jewish people say grace (to G-d, not Jesus) and they believe Jesus existed, just that he wasn’t the Messiah. Besides that, Nest was wonderful. The 1970s were portrayed just as I remember them, without being contrived or hokey. And though the ending was sad, I finished the book with the thought that those children were going to make it. They had hope, they had strength, and they had each other.