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The Guest Book Bets On...

The Guest Book

May 2019

Sarah Blake’s THE GUEST BOOK is one of my favorite books of 2019. I feel like this is going to be one of the most talked-about books this summer. I read it, and once I closed it, I could not wait to share it with people. This is a novel that looks at class, culture and race in America framed against the purview of three generations of the Milton family, a well-bred family that has summered for three generations on Crockett’s Island, an island that they own off the coast of Maine. The island has been the place where many of the family’s memories have been made, but now the third generation finds itself unable to afford the upkeep on the island and is at a crossroads.

It opens in the 1930s with Kitty Milton, who is the quintessential high-society wife. Her world revolves around her husband, Ogden, whose banking business is flourishing both at home and abroad in Germany. Yes, pre-war Germany, and that will figure into this story. Kitty lives for being the perfect hostess and wife, and is consumed with making her three children happy. An accident that she witnesses puts her in a dark mood, and to lift her spirits, her husband buys the island.

The Miltons live a storied life, enjoying carefree days and a great deal of family time. There is lots of propriety and the way things should be done. But things are changing outside the island. Privilege is not being looked at the same way. People are pushing boundaries on the world that the first generation cultivated. White-shoe Wall Street is coming to terms with people from different ethnicities and cultures. Same is not the norm.

Multiple storylines and different points of view had me marveling at Sarah’s talent. It is big and sweeping, but it also feels tight as it looks at the core of family and values. Readers will question as the characters in the book do. It’s not a quick read, but it’s one that will spur conversation from many angles.

THE GUEST BOOK is what I call a quintessential book club book. The themes of privilege, race and power that run through it are thought provoking and will be perfect for many a book group discussion. I am going to be reading it with both of my book clubs and look forward to seeing what they think about it.

Longtime Bookreporter readers, note that Sarah’s last book, THE POSTMISTRESS, which was published in 2010, also was a Bets On selection.

The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250110270
  • ISBN-13: 9781250110275