Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Secrets

Title:  Summer Secrets
Author:  Jane Green
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2015. 320 pages.
ISBN:  125004734X / 978-1250047342

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Shelf Awareness.

Opening Sentence:  "Most of the time, when I'm facing an evening on my own, I am absolutely fine."

Favorite Quote:  "Life is where you look."

The word "summer" in the title, the lovely blue color, and flowers on the cover conjure up an image of love, warmth, and a sweet story. The word "secrets" and the broken stem of the flower conjure something deeper and darker.

The first half of the book creates the character of Cat Coombs. It depicts the life of an alcoholic and the devastating impact alcoholism has on the individual and on those around them. Lost jobs, failed marriages, broken relationships, despair. Thankfully, this is not something I have experienced personally. I can't attest to the accuracy of the depiction; it does, however, make for sad reading.

Cat's journey to sobriety can be seen in her thoughts - her internal dialogue throughout the book:
  • "I worry my chameleon tendencies display a lack of sense of self."
  • "Part of romanticizing my life includes the false assumption that if I look right, I will be right."
  • "I am embarrassed when I realize I have no idea what normal is."
  • "At what point will I trust my own voice?"
  • "How easily this could have been me. This was me. For years."
The second half of the book hinges upon this journey. It invokes the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In particular, the story stems from Steps 8 and 9. Step 8 asks the individual to “make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” Step 9 directs the individual to "make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

For Cat, this list of people includes her mother, her ex-husband, her daughter, and her sisters. One bad decision made in a fog of alcohol a long time ago cost Cat a relationship with her sisters. Now, she seeks to make amends and reconnect.

This part of the story becomes much more predictable and veers aways from the central focus on alcoholism. It introduces some filler characters, funny but unnecessary to the story. The main characters don't develop much depth either; they seem to exist only in relationship to their role in Cat's life. Cat's mother's reveals the secret of Cat's childhood and then assumes the supportive role of a mother. Cat's ex-husband, a recovering alcoholic himself, behaves predictably, going between loving Cat and being angry at her behavior. Cat's daughter seems to have a loving relationship with her mother and seems to bear no scars from the years of Cat's alcoholism. The only aspect of Cat's sisters readers learn about are their reactions and feelings towards Cat. Moving back and forth between 1998 and 2014, the book comes together into a cliche ending.

Jane Green has been long on my "to read" list. The appealing covers of her books always draw me in. I am glad that I finally read her work. In many ways, this book reminds me of Danielle Steel's books. The beautiful London and Nantucket settings certainly add to that comparison. Both give a light look at some serious issues. Both have characters that convey the point of the story without becoming fully developed. In both, things have a tendency to work out for a neat ending. At the end of it all, both provide an easy summer beach read that sometimes hints at a deeper message.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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