In Elin Hilderbrand’s The Identicals, Hilderbrand takes readers to the sunny shores of Martha’s Vineyard. There, we meet the 39-year-old Frost sisters: fun-loving, hard-drinking Harper, who’s allergic to responsibility, and her estranged identical twin sister, Tabitha, a cultured and elegant woman and single mother who lives a few miles away in Nantucket, where she struggles to keep their mother’s boutique afloat. The twins haven’t gotten along in years, but when scandal engulfs them both, they decide to swap islands—and lives—in a desperate attempt to help right each other’s wrongs. In preparation for Hilderbrand’s latest scrumptious and intelligent beach fare, the author shared her picks for the best summer reads.
For me, a great summer read does NOT have to be set at the beach. It merely has to be completely engrossing, a real page-turner, and extra points for escapism.
Saints for All Occasions, by Courtney Sullivan
This is a good old-fashioned family saga. It begins in Ireland in the fifties and follows the immigrant parents over to Boston right up to 2009. When tragedy strikes, the family gathers and all the secrets come out. You may feel as though you’ve read this story before, but Sullivan’s gorgeous, precise, empathetic prose draws you in and makes the whole thing fresh and new. You WILL fall in love with this family. Suggested for: New England beach vacations!
The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
Possibly the perfect beach read. This novel follows an upper class American family to Majorca for the summer. It’s whip-smart, erudite, and so, so clever. It has sumptuous European details and juicy scandal. Extra points for escapism! Suggested for: Your trip to the south of France or Santorini!
Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley
After a private plane filled with important people crashes off of Martha’s Vineyard, there are only two survivors, and authorities puzzle over what happened. This is a thriller AND a beach book! It’s written in the kind of prose you can vividly see in your mind’s eye—I say it should be a movie!—and I devoured every delicious page. Suggested for: anywhere BUT Martha’s Vineyard.
The Admissions, by Meg Mitchell Moore
This is one of my favorite books in recent years. It’s about a family with three daughters, and the eldest is desperately trying to get into Harvard. Set in the high-stress, high-tech, high-property-value world of San Francisco, this novel keeps you guessing and cheering and biting your nails to the very end. Suggested for: summer college tours, parents only.
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
I read this novel while on St. John this past March and was both mesmerized and inspired. Picoult is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), especially when it comes to novels that deal with “issues.” This novel takes on Race with a capital R, but Race takes a backseat to Picoult’s impeccable characterizations; you develop sympathy for all of the characters in this book, even those you might not naturally be inclined to like. And that, my friends, is a feat only the most masterful of storytellers can pull off. Suggested for: everyone, everywhere.