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Thirty-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright seems to have at last found her niche, 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.
Now the entire Wheelwright ...
Thirty-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright seems to have at last found her niche, 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.
Now the entire Wheelwright clan is making its annual summer pilgrimage to the homestead, including Charlotte’s mother, Helen, who brings a heavy heart as she confronts a betrayal that threatens her sense of place and her sense of self. Bringing together three generations of strong-willed women, each wrestling with life-changing decisions, Nancy Thayer’s luminous novel shows that no matter where life’s path may lead, love always finds a way back home.
Thayer (Shell Moon Beach) explores the tarnished interior of a family of Boston bankers as well as the more polished exterior they display in public in this tepid melodrama. Charlotte Wheelwright has a guilty conscience, so she flees Boston for Nantucket to start an organic farm on her grandmother's land. Nona is nearly 90, and the family is happy to have someone on the island with her year-round. A few years into her project, Charlotte begins making a small profit, and some members of the extended family have a problem with that. The clan gathers at the seaside mansion for the annual family meeting where the fate of Charlotte's garden will be decided. Much of the group, including Charlotte's addict brother, stay at the house all summer, to share in more festive occasions like Nona's birthday celebration, a wedding and the birth of a child. Charlotte, meanwhile, suddenly finds herself attracted to two men, but which will she choose? The clichéd family's clichéd squabbling-and the narrative as a whole-ends up being much ado about nothing. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Charlotte had already picked the lettuces and set them, along with the bunches of asparagus tied with twine and the mason jars of fresh-faced pansies, out on the table in a shaded spot at the end of the drive. In July, she would have to pay someone to man the farm stand, but in June not so many customers were around, and those who did come by found a table holding a wicker basket with a small whiteboard propped next to the basket. In colored chalk, the prices for the day’s offerings were listed, and a note: Everything picked fresh today. Please leave the money in the basket. Thanks and blessings from Beach Grass Garden. She hadn’t been cheated yet. She knew the customers thought this way of doing business was quaint, harkening back to a simpler time, and they appreciated it. Perhaps it helped them believe the world was still a safe and honest place.
The day was overcast but hoeing was hot work and she had been up since four-thirty. Charlotte collapsed against the trunk of an apple tree, uncapped her water bottle, and took a long delicious drink. Nantucket had the best water on the planet: sweet, pure, and clear. It was shady in this overgrown spot, so she lifted off the floppy straw hat she wore, in addition to a heavy slathering of sunblock, and sighed in appreciation as a light breeze stirred her hair.
She couldn’t linger, she had too much to do. She took another long drink of water, listened to her stomach rumble, and considered returning to the house for an early lunch.
When she heard the voices, she almost jumped.
People were talking on Bill Cooper’s side of the fence, just behind the green tangle of wild grapevines. Hunky Bill Cooper and his gorgeous girlfriend. From the tense rumble of Coop’s voice and Miranda’s shrill whine, they weren’t happy.
“Come on, Mir, don’t be that way.” Bill’s tone was placating but rimmed with an edge of exasperation.
“What way would that be?” A sob caught in Miranda’s throat. “Truthful?”
The moment had definitely passed, Charlotte decided, when she could clear her throat, jump up, and call out a cheerful hello. Vague snuffling sounds informed her that Bill’s dogs, Rex and Regina, were nearby, nosing through the undergrowth. She thought about the layout of Bill’s land: along the other side of the fence grew his everlasting raspberry bushes. The berries wouldn’t be ripe yet, so Bill and Miranda must be taking the dogs for a walk as they often did. She was glad the berry bushes grew next to the fence, their prickly canes forming a barrier between Bill’s land and Nona’s. A tangle of grasses massed around barberry bushes was wedged against the fence, and then there were the tree trunks. They would pass by any moment now. She would keep very quiet. Otherwise it would be too embarrassing, even though she had a right and a reason to be here.
“I never lied to you, Miranda. I told you I wasn’t ready for a long-term commitment, especially not when you’re in New York all winter.”
“You could come visit me.”
“I don’t like cities,” Bill argued mildly.
“Well, that’s pathetic. And sleeping with that—that slut—is pathetic.” Miranda was striding ahead of Bill. She cried out, “Rex, you stupid, stupid dog! You almost tripped me.”
“Mir, simmer down.” Bill sounded irritable, at the end of his patience.
Miranda didn’t reply but hurried into the orchard of ancient apple trees. Bill followed, crashing through the brush. Charlotte could hear a few more words—I’m not kidding! It’s over, Bill!—then she heard the hum of their voices but no words, and then they were gone.
“Gosh,” Charlotte whispered to herself.
Charlotte had had a crush on Bill Cooper for years. Coop was a hunk, but so easygoing and funny that when you talked with him you could almost forget how handsome he was. She seldom saw him, even though he lived right next door. Of course, “right next door” was a general term. Nona’s property consisted of ten acres with fifty feet of waterfront on Polpis Harbor, and the Coopers’ land was about the same size. With all the plantings, you couldn’t see one house from the other, even in winter when all the leaves had fallen.
Like the Wheelwrights, the Coopers mostly summered on the island, the Wheelwrights coming from Boston, the Coopers from New York. Eons ago, when they were all little kids, Coop had played a lot with Charlotte’s brother Oliver, even though Oliver was younger, because Coop was an only child, and the two families got together several times over the summer for cocktails or barbecues. Then came the years when they rarely saw each other, everyone off in college and backpacking in summer instead of coming to the island.
Coop lived in California for a while, but three years ago his parents moved to Florida and Coop moved into the island house, telling everyone he wanted to live here permanently. He ran a computer software business from his nineteen-sixties wandering ranch house, mixed his plasma TV and Bose CD player in with his family’s summery bamboo and teak furniture, and was content. Mostly he allowed his land to grow wild, except for a small crop of butter-and-sugar corn famous for its sweetness. At the end of the summer, he held a party outdoors, a clambake with fresh corn, cold beer, and icy champagne.
Charlotte had seen Coop and Miranda about town now and then, when she went in to catch a movie or pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. It was obvious why any man would fall in love with Miranda Fellows. She was a dark-eyed beauty hired to run Luxe et Volupté, an upscale clothing shop on Centre Street. She was British, and her accent thrilled the young, beautiful, rich, social-climbing set, men as well as women. She was such a snob, and Coop was such a genuine good guy, they seemed like an odd pair, but Charlotte hadn’t allowed herself romantic thoughts about Coop.
She hadn’t allowed herself romantic thoughts about any man for quite a long while.
Her own move to Nantucket had not been a lighthearted, impulsive act. She’d thought about it a lot. She’d searched her soul. She came to Nantucket to get away from men—at least from one particular man—and to somehow balance with good acts the wrong she’d done. Her organic garden was her own self-imposed penance and repentance, and she’d been diligent and hardworking and nunlike for three years. She didn’t know when her penance would be over . . . but she knew she would find out when the time came. Until then, she forced herself to work hard, every day.
She stood up and stretched. On this June day, the sky was overcast, but Charlotte wore a long-sleeved T-shirt, a pair of striped bib overalls, and the floppy straw hat. She’d been burned too many times after carelessly exposing her pale skin to the sun. She’d learned her lesson.
Gardening seemed endlessly full of lessons, ones that had to be learned through personal experience instead of research and memorization. She liked that about working in a garden—the directness of it, the intimacy. It was so personal. No wonder people talked to their plants. Sometimes Charlotte sang to hers. And there was one stubborn wild rose, a rogue at the far end of the rows of winter onions, that had proudly kept a few green leaves all through the frigid winter. Charlotte actually visited it, touching its chilled leaves and whispering to it to cheer it on. When a failing plant began to thrive, she felt it as a personal victory; she believed it was her good work that somehow brought about good results.
Now she scrutinized the long rows of plants shining beneath the sun. At the far end, Jorge, her part-time employee, was plucking weeds and tossing them into a bucket. Jorge was a good, fast worker, and she was lucky to have him, because hand weeding was backbreaking work and absolutely necessary for an organic garden. There were many positive aspects about growing lettuces on the island—lettuce liked sandy soil and cool weather, and Nantucket had plenty of both, even in the summer. And since her lettuces were harvested while they were still young, they were seldom in the soil long enough to develop insect and disease problems. But weeds were her nemesis. By U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, chemical weed killers couldn’t be used in an organic garden, and Charlotte didn’t want to use them. The first year, she had tried to do everything herself, the seeding, planting, weeding, watering, and picking, in addition to taking the lettuces and other veggies to the various posh restaurants that would pay her prices for fresh locally grown produce, and at night she’d tried to keep up with the necessary paperwork for taxes and for her records. She just hadn’t been able to do it all. Fortunately, Nona’s landscaper, who had tended her formal garden regularly for years, recommended Jorge, and Jorge had saved the day.
Jorge was weeding now and would weed most of the day. Charlotte ran down her mental list of duties. She wanted to plant more lettuces and arugula and, if she had time, pot the double impatiens people bought the instant they were available. She walked back to her work shed, trying hard not to think about Coop.
She would think about her family. That would provide sufficient distraction!
Three years ago, she’d presented her plan at Family Meeting and no one, not her brothers and not her cousins, had objected to Charlotte’s use of the roadside end of Nona’s land for a trial market garden. Even when she had the ground rototilled so that the familiar bronze tones of wild brush and grasses were transformed into shining rows of dark sandy earth, even when dump trucks unloaded good soil and manure that smelled to high heaven, even when men came to build an unattractive wire fence around the garden to keep out deer, rabbits, and other wildlife, and especially not when Charlotte contributed sweet fresh strawberries or crisp lettuces to the family meals, did anyone in the family object.
But last year Charlotte had made a profit of four thousand dollars, and suddenly everyone—well, her aunt and uncle and her cousins—was having fits of jealousy, claiming that Nona was giving more to Charlotte than to the rest of them. Which was crazy of them, because to them four thousand dollars was just nothing.
It was not the four thousand dollars, really, Charlotte knew, that was the issue. It was the whole property, land and house and beach, worth several million, that everyone wanted—and, rightfully, had a claim to. Nona was almost ninety; she couldn’t live forever, even though everyone wished she might and Nona herself seemed to think it possible. Nona had two living children—Charlotte’s father, Worth, and his sister, Grace—two in-laws—Charlotte’s mother, Helen, and Grace’s husband, Kellogg—six grandchildren, and—from Mandy, Grace’s daughter—two great-grandchildren. Nona had not, would not, disclose the details of her will, even though at each annual Family Meeting her children pressed her. When the time is right, she would respond, and it didn’t matter if they claimed to be insulted, she wouldn’t change her mind.
The three acres of land constituting Charlotte’s garden didn’t belong to Charlotte. There had never been any kind of arrangement like that, and in fact Charlotte had insisted on paying a token rent to her grandmother for the use of the land. But no one in the family had ever expected her to stick with gardening; they had all assumed that sooner or later Charlotte would think up some more appealing project and wander away, letting the acreage revert to its natural state.
Well, she was proving them wrong. Her grueling, dogged physical labor had paid off in unexpected ways. No one had expected her garden to be a success; she could understand that completely. She’d never been dedicated to anything before.
Posted August 20, 2009
Loved dynamics of the Wheelwright family. The characters got you involved in the book so well. I loved Charlotte and her garden living on her grandmother's (Nona) land. The Wheelwrights go through interesting family dynamics that keep you wanting to read more. Charlotte of course has a romance between 2 men in the novel. It was a book that kept you wanting to know more about what was going to happen with the Wheelwrights! I loved the book.
11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 2, 2009
Needing to escape from banking, thirty year old Charlotte Wheelwright leaves Boston to to stay on her nonagenarian grandma Nona's estate. Her family of bankers supports her move because everyone has been concerned about Nona living by herself as the elderly woman has been mumbling frequently about long ago events and people dead. To occupy herself Charlotte starts a garden.
Over the next few years she loves working the land with her only stress occurring when the family invades for the annual get together to discuss financial matters. Her garden begins to turn a profit as she sells some of her organically grown items. However, her white collar banking family objects to her selling her efforts as that is beneath the upper crust Brahmins that the Wheelwright clan believes they are. This summer they plan to make Charlotte stop as they once did her mom Helen, but she might have an ally in her mother who isangry with her spouse for cheating on her.She supports her daughter to do whatever she wants.
This tale is an interesting look at the wealthy upper class through the eyes of a rebel (with a cause). Charlotte has found happiness working her garden, which was acceptable for an affluent woman of leisure, but once she becomes a middle class peddler than everyone except Nona and mom turn on her. Image is everything to the Wheelwright clan. Although the plot is extremely thin with the conflict seemingly minor and most of the support characters unlikable snobs, fans of contemporary family drama will still want to read Nancy Thayer's SUMMER HOUSE.
8 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2010
The first book I have read of Thayers - she reminds me a lot of Elin Hilderbrand with the setting of Nantucket. Well-written family drama.
5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 11, 2012
Posted August 21, 2009
As a native Californian, I always enjoy Thayer's books about the other end of the country. Have visited Nantucket just once, but can visualize many of the scenes. The extended family was most interesting; I love books about multi-generations. I will read the book again next summer.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2012
This book captures you from page 1 until the end. You are in the characters lives on a daily basis, and you do not want the book to end. I have read every one of Nancy Thayer's books starting with the Hot Flash Club. Love, love, love them.
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 21, 2012
Is always the sign of a good book. Loved the multi-generational story line and multiple perspectives. The details were sometimes unnecessary, but overall it was worth the read.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2012
I am a "water baby," and this book was a wonderful escape. There is something to be said about a terrific island location for a background.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 2, 2012
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Posted October 2, 2014
Too many sub stories plus a past mystery. Non of these major relevations come to anything and just fizzle out leaving the reader "cheated. " wont spoil story with an h.h. reviewWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2014
This is a great story. Great writing, interesting characters. I would have given this five stars, but the ending just fell flat. For such a well developed story, it just stopped abruptly. It left me wanting more.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 30, 2014
Posted September 29, 2014
Although this is the first book of Nancy Thayer that I have read, it will not be the last. I enjoyed this tremendously. Love beautiful Nantucket. Couldn't put it down. Loved the characters, especially Nona and her relationship with Charlotte; the family generations and how most get along so well under the same roof. I enjoy the fact that the Author doesn't get heavy and explicit on the love details between Charlotte and Coop. All and all it was a busy read and yet relaxing at the same time. I look forward to reading more of this author's books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 28, 2014
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