Review: The Summer House

Family Dynamics, Enjoyable read
Summer House is a perfect book selection for me – I enjoy reading about personal growth, family issues, survival and more. Thank you to Pump up your Book Promotion for sending a copy and offering me the ability to participate in a virtual tour for Summer House.

Nancy Thayer is a New York Times-bestselling author and Summer House is her 19th novel. She is the mother of Samantha Wilde, whose debut novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, comes out on June 23. Nancy lives on Nantucket.

I do not have a big family so I am always interested is reading books about family dynamics (understanding this is fiction of course). The story takes place at Nona’s home on Nantucket over a summer when three, almost four generations of Wheelwrights invade her home. But this is Charlotte and Helen’s story just as much as it is Nona’s.

Charlotte is Nona’s thirty year old granddaughter, who is sharing the house with Nona. Charlotte left the family business a few years prior and is running a successful organic vegetable stand. As we watch Charlotte and her mother (Helen) work through some personal issues, we also watch the extended family fight over trivial things from hosting family meetings over the small profit from the vegetable stand, throwing parties, and/or struggling to hold some type of bond when family seems most important. I would pass this book along to someone looking for a light/summer read.

A conversation with Nancy Thayer:
Tell us a little about yourself: I live on Nantucket with my husband Charley and our two cats. Our house is old and filled with books. Charley reads as much as I do, and we both cherish our books, so most of the walls of our home are lined with bookshelves. My son Josh is 36, a computer geek, reads constantly, and my daughter Samantha Wilde also reads--and writes. This June her first novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, will debut with Bantam/Dell. Feel free to visit my website which is filled with a lot of biographic information, but the anchoring constants of my life are my family and books, the ones I read and the ones I write. My mother is 91, and reads a book a day. I consider her a fabulous role model!

Do you write daily? I write every day except Sunday, and I find a day of rest really refreshes me. The other six days of the week, I grab a cup of coffee and go up to my study before eight a.m. and work until around one. I've kept to this schedule for oh, about a thousand years now. If I'm writing, I'm a pleasant person for the rest of the day. If I don't write, I'm not as happy and not as pleasant (ask my husband). . .except when I'm with my grandchildren.

What was it like getting your first novel published? All I ever wanted to do was write. I wanted to write books when I was four years old. I read constantly, and taught freshman English in various colleges, and all through my twenties I struggled to find my voice. I tried to write a romance novel and tried to write a "literary" novel and both were terrible. I wrote short stories and got rejected, and then some got accepted, and I wrote a novel which an agent took on, but no publisher wanted, so I huddled away with my typewriter, and got very introverted. I knew no one else who was writing. I felt weird and lost. Then I had my children, a little boy, and a little girl, and suddenly I knew what I wanted to write about. I wrote my first novel in the first person, and my voice was clear and authentic. The day my agent phoned to tell me that Doubleday was publishing /Stepping/, I was overjoyed. I got divorced the same year my first book came out. /Redbook/ magazine condensed /Stepping./ I received a lot of wonderful letters from readers. I got a contract for a second novel. I popped more champagne corks that year than any other time, and I kept the empty bottles lined up on top of the bookcase. Doubleday threw a book launch party for me in New York and it was all just absolutely wildly glamorous. Really a dream come true.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I don't have a kindle, but I love new technology, and if you think about it, a book is a kind of technology. Anything that allows people to read is fine with me.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Rewrite. Step away from the manuscript, take at least a week to do something else, then read your book with fresh eyes, and be willing to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. This sounds hard and it is, but it's also quite exciting to see how inserting a new paragraph or sharpening one's language and finding the absolutely perfect word can make a book more compelling. You think: Oh, /that/'s what I meant!

What are you reading now? I just finished Emily Fox Gordon's brilliant novel, /It Will Come to Me/. It took my breath away. Also just finished a Tony Hillerman mystery, and the hilarious/informative nonfiction book /Rapture for the Geeks/ by Richard Dooling. Last night I read Peter Robinson's new mystery /All the Colors of Darkness/. Did I mention that I'm an insomniac?

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics: 'Life Among the Savages' by Shirley Jackson. And 'The Shell Seekers' by Rosamund Pilcher. Both are "domestic" novels. Both made me fall in love with my own life. I read them over and over again.

Just for fun:
Favorite Season: Winter. Because I have to stay inside and have more time to read.

Morning or night: Morning, definitely.

Favorite ice cream flavor: Phish food. I eat an entire pint at one sitting. I often imagine writing Ben and Jerry a thank-you note. Then I get on the scale. . .

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: My son took me on a two-week cruise up the coast of Norway two years ago. Our ship entered all the fjords and we went all the way to the Arctic Circle. It is the most extreme, terrifying, gorgeous place. It made me feel in my heart and in my gut that there really is a heaven, and a whole lot more to being a human being than we ever imagine. I would go there again and again and again--except right now, the more fascinating place in the world for me is the house where my grandchildren live!

Type: Fiction, 368 pages, hardcover

After years of wandering from whim to whim, thirty-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright seems to have at last found her niche. The free spirit enjoys running an organic gardening business on the island of Nantucket, thanks in large part to her spry grandmother Nona, who donated a portion of land on the family’s seaside compound to get Charlotte started. Though Charlotte’s skill with plants is bringing her success, cultivating something deeper with people–particularly her handsome neighbor Coop–might be more of a challenge. Nona’s generosity to Charlotte, secretly her favorite grandchild, doesn’t sit well with the rest of the Wheelwright clan, however, as they worry that Charlotte may be positioning herself to inherit the entire estate. With summer upon them, everyone is making their annual pilgrimage to the homestead–some with hopes of thwarting Charlotte’s dreams, others in anticipation of Nona’s latest pronouncements at the annual family meeting, and still others with surprising news of their own. Charlotte’s mother, Helen, a Wheelwright by marriage, brings a heavy heart. She once set aside her own ambitions to fit in with the Wheelwrights, but now she must confront a betrayal that threatens both her sense of place and her sense of self.As summer progresses, these three women–Charlotte, Nona, and Helen–come to terms with the decisions they have made. Revisiting the lives and loves that have crossed their paths and the possibilities of the roads not taken, they may just discover that what they’ve always sought was right in front of them all along.

“Nancy Thayer has a deep and masterly understanding of love and friendship, of where the two complement and where they collide.” – Elin Hilderbrand

“I read it straight through, and when I was finished all I wanted to do was walk barefoot on the beach with my best friend.” - Luanne Rice

The New York Times - Janet Maslin This well-wrought, appealing book…is packed with literally down-to-earth charm, what with a central character who escapes her family of starchy bankers by lovingly tending her vegetable garden.