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The Summer Place

Review

The Summer Place

Reading Jennifer Weiner's books about idyllic summers spent on Cape Cod makes one yearn to pack up and head for the nearest beach. The sky is almost always blue, the water is clear, and the salty aroma in the air only serves to make readers hungry for a lobster roll or an ice cream cone.

In Weiner’s latest novel, THE SUMMER PLACE, we meet the Danhauser family and assorted relatives. The book centers on three generations of women: Veronica Levy (Ronnie); Sarah Weinberg Danhauser, her daughter; and Ruby, Sarah's husband's daughter from a previous marriage. Ruby and her boyfriend, Gabe, have decided to get married, and they are having the wedding at Ronnie's beautiful beachside home on the Cape.

"THE SUMMER PLACE will generate many fabulous discussions for book clubs. And, of course, it is the perfect book to bring on a beach vacation so that one can enjoy the salty sea air while reading about something that might be taking place just down the coast."

We also hear from the house itself, which has protected those three generations from wind, sun and inclement weather. The house hears it might be sold and is determined not to let that happen. Weiner manages to create a character out of this inanimate object and skillfully imbues her writing with enough emotion to choke this reader up at the very end.

While the focus of the novel is the fact that everyone will be coming to Ronnie's house for the wedding, it's really about that weekend being a time when family members are forced to unburden themselves about truths that have been hidden. Along the way, Weiner delves into Sarah's childhood with her twin brother Sam, spending delicious summers on the beach, swimming in the nearby pond, riding bikes, fishing and relaxing together.

Sarah has her two young sons so busy with camp and lessons that they can't just spend summers at her mother's home, much to Ronnie’s chagrin. Yes, they spend a day or two with her, here and there, but Ronnie realizes that her best course of action is to sell her beautiful home and get something more practical just for her. With her beloved husband, gone, she feels it's time to move on.

We learn about Sarah's first love and the resulting heartache, along with Sam's struggle after his wife died suddenly, leaving him with a stepson because the boy's birth father isn't interested in being a father. In fact, there are several parents here who decide that parenting isn't for them, but there are others who are more than happy to take on that job. Sarah's husband, Eli, is hiding something, but he refuses to talk to Sarah about it, and she suspects the worst.

At first, the sheer number of characters can seem a bit overwhelming. But that quickly changes as we get to know each one and understand the relationships and their history. It turns out that Ronnie was introduced in Weiner's previous novel, THAT SUMMER, although it is not necessary to have read that book before diving into this one.

Over the course of THE SUMMER PLACE, all the main characters face life-changing circumstances or realizations that end up bringing them all together. Weiner challenges us to think carefully about secrets --- the secrets that are important to share with those we love and the ones that should never be revealed, because doing so might have repercussions and cause irreparable harm. Are all secrets bad? What if by keeping a secret, one can keep a marriage going or a child happy? She also makes us ponder what constitutes a family. If a parent doesn't want to be involved in a child’s life, is that person still the child's mother or father? Or is it the one who loved that child and raised her or him with kindness and moral support? What part does simple biology play?

For this reason and for these questions, THE SUMMER PLACE will generate many fabulous discussions for book clubs. And, of course, it is the perfect book to bring on a beach vacation so that one can enjoy the salty sea air while reading about something that might be taking place just down the coast.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on May 12, 2022

The Summer Place
by Jennifer Weiner

  • Publication Date: May 10, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501133578
  • ISBN-13: 9781501133572