Guest Blogger: Carrie Nurnberger Lane
The best place to catch up on reading, relax and escape the struggles and stressors of our daily lives is at the beach, pool or even here on the Lakeside dock.
So, take a moment to sit back and get lost in the pages of another world…Paris, Nantucket, the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Pacific Coast Trail, West Virginia and the homes of our best friends.
This list of books offers something for every reader, from fiction and memoirs to nonfiction titles. Enjoy and happy reading!
The Rainy Day House by Linda Legeza
Those of us who consider Lakeside home will connect with Abby Richardson, the main character in The Rainy Day House, who retreats to the Chautauqua on Lake Erie for healing and a reprieve from the uncertainties of her once stable life in Cleveland.
Abby is a successful businesswoman, wife and mother until her 17-year-old son is suddenly killed in a car accident. Even after three months, Abby’s grief consumes her life. Her husband, boss and daughter are all eager to help Abby return to the fun wife, hard-working employee and loving mother that she is now just a shell of her former self. Seeking an escape from a failing marriage, uncertainty about returning to her job and the ever present grief…Abby retreats to her childhood vacation spot on Lake Erie – Lakeside.
While at Lakeside, Abby makes the cottage her parents left her a home again, welcoming neighborhood children in during the rain, earning the cottage the name, “The Rainy Day House.” Two of the people Abby befriends while in Lakeside, include a 9-year-old boy, named Jack, and a recent widower, named Adam. Together, the three of them find the solace they need in each other and Lakeside.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
At first, Wild might seem daunting because the book details Cheryl Strayed’s solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), but most readers will find the author’s recollections of the journey to be entertaining and even inspiring.
The book causes a range of emotions and feelings for readers. Excitement as Cheryl begins her journey with a backpack that seemed to weigh more than she did. Fear as she watches for rattlesnakes and mountain lions along the trail.
Sadness as Cheryl recalls the miseries of her life before hitting the trail – her mother’s death, the break-up of her family and recent divorce. Hilarity as she screams at the bear and falls asleep on a beach of frogs, and joy as Cheryl finishes the trail in Oregon.
At the culmination, readers might find themselves motivated to go hiking – perhaps not the PCT but something simpler.
An interesting part of the book is reading about all of the people Cheryl meets along the way and how kind almost everyone is to her.
Yes, there were a few scary moments or rude people, but overall, everyone she encounters embraces her vision of hiking the PCT, and even helps her achieve those goals.
Note: Read the book this summer and enjoy the movie in December. The movie will star Reese Witherspoon.
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Engagements, at times, reads like a non-fiction account of the diamond industry, since parts of the novel are based on true facts about the woman that created the slogan, “A Diamond Is Forever.”
The book opens with Frances Garety, a copywriter at a large advertising firm in Philadelphia. From her point of view we see the historical value of the diamond ring throughout the course of more than five decades.
Intertwined with Frances’ story are different perspectives of marriage from four couples. One couple is married following the untimely death of the wife’s first husband, who just happens to be the second husband’s best friend.
Their story begins in the 1940s, and the two believe that marriage does mean “’til death do us part,” which is why they are having such a difficult time understanding why their son is willing to leave his wife and family.
The second couple is a struggling to get by in the late 1980s. The husband wants to prove himself to his wife and her family, who still, after 10 years, believes he is not worthy of her love.
The third story follows a French woman who marries her business partner for comfort and companionship, only to leave him later for a much younger American.
Finally, the last couple is not married but has been together for 10 years. They do not believe in the fuss surrounding a wedding and although they live and have a child together, they have no desire to ever wed.
Through these four couples, as well as the story of Frances, readers will understand the idea of marriage and what the diamond symbolizes for the union, as well as how one diamond brings all four of these couples together in the end.
Fans of The Engagements should also read J. Courtney Sullivan’s other two novels, Maine and Commencement.
The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
Jason Prosper is finishing his senior year at Bellingham, a prep school for misfit wealthy kids who have been kicked out of the notable boarding schools in New England. A competitive sailor, Jason is still mourning the loss of his best friend, roommate and sailing partner – Cal – when school starts. Cal committed suicide and Jason blames himself. The novel follows the school year and illustrates the class privilege, sexual desire and teenage recklessness. By graduation, Jason learns to forgive himself and accept love but it is not an easy journey.
Readers who enjoyed the book Prep, by Curtis Sittenfield, will enjoy this boarding school novel. Similar themes are present, only The Starboard Sea is from the male perspective.
The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
The Castaways begins with the death of Greg and Tess, a young couple from Nantucket trying to recover from some marital problems.
After leaving their twins with friends, the couple sets sail for Martha’s Vineyard, to celebrate their anniversary, but the afternoon ends tragically when the couple drowns.Soon the question arises of whether or not their drowning was an accident.
The remainder of the book details the summer following their deaths and how three other couples, that Greg and Tess are friends with, deal with their loss.
The book is full of surprises and an enjoyable beach read that reminds readers to treasure friendships and the time spent together because life is short.
Fans of The Castaways should also read Summerland and Summer People by Elin Hilderbrand.
The Island by Elin Hilderbrand
The Island is another great summer read by Elin Hilderbrand. The book tells the story of Birdie Cousins and her daughter and their time spent together with family.
Birdie Cousins finally has the opportunity to plan the dream wedding of her older daughter, Chess. Everything is coming together perfectly until Chess unexpectedly and without reason, unbeknownst to Birdie, the rest of her family or Chess’ fiancé, calls off the wedding.
Hoping some time away with family will be the cure, Birdie and her family return to the family summer home on Tuckernuck Island, off the coast of Nantucket. Tuckernuck has no phones, electricity or a grocery store – it is a place for solitude and an escape from all of their troubles. The broken engagement, however, is just the first in a summer of upheavals and revelations for Birdie, Chess, her other daughter Tate and Birdie’s sister, India. Secrets are shared, old loves rekindled, new loves found and the importance of family is rediscovered while on the island. This is a wonderful beach read!
The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank
Maisy is the family matriarch of a crazy Southern family living in Charleston, South Carolina in The Hurricane Sisters.
The story begins with a hilarious scene where Maisy’s daughter, Liz, and son-in-law, Clayton, are bailing her out of jail for walking a llama down the street.
Maisy is full of spunk and passionately in love with her chauffer, who is much younger than her.
The story unfolds through the voices of each of the main characters but is really the story of the women, “the hurricane sisters.”
While Maisy stoically harbors past ghosts, including the untimely death of her other daughter, Liz is struggling with the homosexuality of her grown son, the infidelity of her husband and the immaturity of her young daughter, Ashley.
Ashley, an aspiring artist, and her roommate, Mary Beth, are living rent free in Clayton and Liz’s beach house trying to struggle with achieving their dreams or coming to terms with reality.
The theme of domestic violence is woven throughout the story as Liz works for a domestic violence organization and Mary Beth is a survivor after witnessing her father abuse her mother growing up.
When tragedy strikes within the family, they pull together and weather the storm (literally and figuratively), supporting each other with love and encouragement.
The Hurricane Sisters is a beautiful story of family in the South Carolina Lowcountry. In the end, no matter how crazy family is, the characters realize that they do need each other more than ever.
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
The Glass Castle is the memoir of Jeanette Walls, a former MSNBC contributor. The memoir is the story of her anything but ordinary childhood.
The daughter of dreamer parents, an alcoholic father, who would rather spend his paycheck on booze or gambling, and a mother, more intent on painting and art then taking care of her children, Jeanette is able to survive her childhood and become a self-sustaining adult at a very young age.
The story opens with Jeannette burning herself severely while she cooks hot dogs. She is 3-years-old during the scene. This is the first glimpse that readers see of the child-rearing styles of both of her parents.
Throughout her childhood, readers relive some ultimate highs and lows of the Walls family and how the siblings persevere together and vow to always take care of each other.
This book will have readers counting their blessings and thinking how grateful they are for a childhood that was most likely better than the author’s. Not going hungry. Not falling asleep as bugs crawl up the walls. Not waking up to rats in the bed.
The saddest part of this story is that her parents had the means to not live like this – off and on jobs and an inheritance – but for whatever reason, they chose this lifestyle.
Through it all, Jeanette and her siblings, were able to move on and make a life for themselves in New York City.
The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendshipby Jeffrey Zaslow
Beach reads often have similar themes…desirable locations, page-turning plots and friends. The Girls from Amesprovides the latter.
Readers who enjoyed fiction books about friendship, including Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, will love this work of non-fiction by the late Jeffrey Zaslow, co-author of The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch.
The book showcases the beauty of lifelong friendship among a group of girls.
Together they survive life’s ups and downs, including the unexpected death of one of the girls and two of their battles with breast cancer.
This book might produce some tears, as readers fondly remember their best friends and the wonderful memories created with them.