Summer House

Summer House

4.0 69
by Nancy Thayer
     
 

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BONUS: This edition contains a Summer House discussion guide and an excerpt from Nancy Thayer's Island Girls.

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

Overview

BONUS: This edition contains a Summer House discussion guide and an excerpt from Nancy Thayer's Island Girls.

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.

Editorial Reviews

Thirty-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright is planting a new life in Nantucket. The transplantation is almost literal: With the help of her grandmother Nona, she's started her own organic gardening business. Her intuitive skill with summer blooms is not duplicated, however, in the "real world." Attracted to her handsome neighbor Coop, she frets privately over the progress of their relationship; and her ties with her extended family are complicated by jealousy and warring interests. Nancy Thayer's novel is a graceful tale about three generations of Wheelwright women and how they heal during a warm Nantucket summer.
Janet Maslin
This well-wrought, appealing book…is packed with literally down-to-earth charm, what with a central character who escapes her family of starchy bankers by lovingly tending her vegetable garden.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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)

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From the Publisher
"Nancy Thayer has a deep and masterly understanding of love and friendship, of where the two complement and where they collide." —Elin Hilderbrand

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345515216
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/23/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
18,688
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


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.

From the Hardcover edition.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Nancy Thayer has a deep and masterly understanding of love and friendship, of where the two complement and where they collide." —-Elin Hilderbrand

Meet the Author

Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Moon Shell Beach, The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Between Husbands and Friends. She lives on Nantucket.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Summer House 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 70 reviews.
HurleyGirl More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. I just recently discovered Nancy Thayer and I like her writing style.
jumur More than 1 year ago
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.
oldeagle More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
ILgirl07 More than 1 year ago
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.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nancy Thayer books are all good reads. Some better than others, but I truly enjoyed this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First time reading Thayer and good story.
willieAP More than 1 year ago
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. Good stuff!
thereadingchick 27 days ago
Summer House tells the story of a few generations of Wheelwright's who spend every summer together on Nantucket. Nona, who turns ninety that summer, is now living on the island year round, with her granddaughter Charlotte. The author very cleverly weaves Nona's love story with her now dead husband Herb, with the expectations her children have for her grandchildren, as well as telling the love stories of each set of lovers. As with many other family saga's I have read, this family has its own dysfunctions that unfold in a very realistic natural way. In fact, as someone who comes from a slightly disfunctional family, I thought there was a little too much drama, for a few very small issues. Though, the issues dealt with in this book were serious, infidelity, divorce, alcoholism, etc., I thought the way they were dealt with was rather old fashioned, sweeping them under the rug. My family would have been a little more direct, which if turned into fiction would have been a very short novel, I guess. Having said that, I did enjoy the different characters in this book, and did appreciate the struggles that one of the main characters, Charlotte, was going through. Her family was in the banking business, and none of her siblings, including herself, wanted to be in that business. She did try it, but gave it up to run an organic food and vegetable stand on the island, and was proving to be rather successful at it. What I identified with was not the pressures put on her by her family, but was in the way that she was trying to find herself, and what she wanted to do in her life. We all put pressure on ourselves for certain things. Having enough money in our savings account for retirement, finding your worth in the workplace and discovering that may not be what you were meant to do, and finding love, or allowing love to find you, and being true to it. Those are all things that many of us go through at different stages of our lives, and her story really resonated with me because of that. I did also enjoy the drama that her large family, living in one house for three months at a time, created, as well. It was great family entertainment, but with serious subject matter. Readers who love family saga's will enjoy the way this story unfolds. It does not hit you over the head, but each story is revealed in a very natural way, with the outcome for each character concluded satisfactorily.
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A beautiful story about what money cannot buy the importance of Family a must read
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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. review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, found it hard to put down. Hated to have it end, one of those books you will probaby read more than once.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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