The Book of Summer

The Book of Summer

by Michelle Gable

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The ocean, the wild roses on the dunes and the stunning Cliff House, perched atop a bluff in Sconset, Nantucket. Inside the faded pages of the Cliff House guest book live the spellbinding stories of its female inhabitants: from Ruby, a bright-eyed newlywed on the eve of World War II to her granddaughter Bess, who returns to the beautiful summer estate.

For the first time in four years, physician Bess Codman visits the compound her great-grandparents built almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Bess must now put aside her complicated memories in order to pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave. It’s not just memories of her family home Bess must face though, but also an old love that might hold new possibilities.

In the midst of packing Bess rediscovers the forgotten family guest book. Bess’s grandmother and primary keeper of the book, Ruby, always said Cliff House was a house of women, and by the very last day of the very last summer at Cliff House, Bess will understand the truth of her grandmother’s words in ways she never imagined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466880955
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/09/2017
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 4,974
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment and I'll See You in Paris, MICHELLE GABLE graduated from The College of William&Mary. After a twenty-year career in finance, she now writes full time. Michelle lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.
New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, MICHELLE GABLE graduated from The College of William&Mary. When not dreaming up fiction on the sly, she currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.

Read an Excerpt

The Book Of Summer

By Michelle Gable

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2017 Michelle Gable
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-8095-5



May 15, 2013

Rumor has it the quintessential Nantucket manse known as Cliff House is days from falling into the ocean. A heartbreak, to be sure. It's the only original and complete pre-1978 building left on the northernmost portion of Baxter Road.

For anyone living under a seashell, the home is all the way over in Sconset, atop a bluff and a few beats from Sankaty Head Light and the famous golf course where you can find a certain hoodied NFL coach swinging his clubs.

Besieged by decades of erosion, Cliff House is a lovely old place that has aged a century in the past year alone. There was Hurricane Sandy last fall, followed by the cruel February blizzard, and a ruthless nor'easter in March, which brought winds exceeding 90 mph. In only eight months, Cliff House has lost over fifty feet of bluff.

As most know, town shaker Cissy Codman owns Cliff House. Cis claims to have some tricks up her sleeve, sand recycling and barricades and such. And while we're obsessed with Cissy and her tricks, whatever grand plans our favorite Sconseter has devised must be okayed by a bevy of local and state interests. By and large, islanders don't want the barricades. The Summer People do. And Cissy Codman is a little bit of both, living here mostly year-round but being a Bostonian at heart.

They say hope is gone but we at Island ACKtion find that a hard pill to choke down. If anyone can save the bluff, it's Cissy. No doubt, she'll move heaven and earth to get what she wants. Let's pray the earth doesn't move first.

Stay tuned, Nantucketers. This fight isn't over. Personally, I'd put my money on a spunky sexagenarian who never seems to sleep.


Saturday Afternoon

Only Cissy Codman would pick someone up at the airport on a bike.

"Bess!" she hollers, pedaling up. "Elisabeth!"

Cissy is in her standard uniform: khaki shorts, denim button-down, beaten-up Keds. Her hair is tucked into a Red Sox baseball cap.

"Oh, Bess, you are beautiful!" she says, and then annihilates her daughter with a Cissy-grade hug. Vigorous. Aggressive. Almost punishing. "I expected so much worse, given the divorce."

"Pending divorce. And Mom? A bike?"

Bess is too flummoxed by the mode of transportation to grouse about any backhanded compliments, which are a Cissy Codman specialty. Bess is used to them, and to the bike as well. None of it should come as a surprise, yet Cissy always catches her daughter off guard.

"Do I need to rent a car?" Bess asks, and wheels her suitcase out into the sunshine.

She shades her eyes with one hand.

"Don't be ridiculous," Cissy says. "This is Nantucket, not LA."

"Okay, but I live in San Francisco, which is four hundred miles from Los Angeles and basically like living in a different state. Also, you realize we're at least five miles from Cliff House?"

"Just over seven," Cissy says. "I have a basket on my bike, though!"

Bess glances down at her suitcase. It fits in an overhead compartment, but definitely wouldn't in the weather-beaten wicker box dangling from Cissy's handlebars. Not to mention, Milestone Road is one boring, interminable shot out to Sconset. To bike it without luggage is hassle enough.

"Cis, do you really think I can fit this ..." Bess gestures toward her suitcase. "Into that?"

The bike basket is so lacking even the Easter Bunny would complain.

"I didn't expect you to bring so much," Cissy says.

"Oh, Mom."

Bess leans in for a second hug. The first one came at her so fast she didn't have a chance to hold on.

"It's great to see you," she says. "I'm glad a few things never change."

Bess pulls back.

"I love that you think you can drive the entire world on those scrawny legs of yours," she says. "But, seriously, we need to explore other options."

"Who raised such a princess?" Cissy asks with a grin. "Sheesh. Too much time in California. I can't even tell you're from New England anymore."

She latches on to Bess's suitcase and tromps out toward the street — guiding the luggage with one hand, her bike with the other.

"I can carry that!" Bess calls.

Cissy quickens her pace, the curly, salty blond ponytail bobbing through the hole of her hat. Bess flattens her dark, straight bangs, as if in response.

"I'm not sure why you're here," Cissy calls over her shoulder, "so far in advance of your cousin's wedding. Don't get me wrong. It's great to see you. But aren't you supposed to be working?"

Yes. Working. That's exactly what she should be doing. It's the same argument Bess made when her father called.

"Well, Dad says ..." Bess starts.

"Oh please." Cissy makes a snort-puff sound. "Your father exaggerates as a rule. He probably did his best to raise your hackles, to make the situation seem irreparably dire."

Bess shakes her head. "Dire" is one word. "Catastrophic" is another.

"Elisabeth, you have to drag your mother out of that house," he'd implored only seventy-two hours before.

"Why can't you do it?" Bess had asked. "She's your wife."

"Please. She stopped listening to me years ago. You're the only one who can help."

Though it sounded suspiciously like a compliment, it wasn't one at all. No, Dudley doesn't believe his middle child capable of swaying one very stubborn and immovable matriarch. His faith in Bess is more practical, rooted in his daughter's ability to show up on short notice, at least compared to her siblings. She's no Clay, the big brother, who works a gajillion hours a week at their dad's hedge fund and has two young kids and a demanding, nine-months-pregnant wife who makes a full-time job of issuing summonses and demands.

Neither is Bess like last-born Julia, known almost exclusively as "Lala" owing to a multiyear inability to pronounce her own name. Sweet Lala is in the Sudan helping refugees, because baby sisters with Harvard degrees and privileged upbringings can do that sort of thing. In sum: Lala has nothing to prove.

"I can't fly cross-country right now," Bess told her dad. "I have to work. To get all of my shifts covered would inconvenience multiple people."

Not to mention that her personal life is in a state of bedlam, though Bess did not disclose that to him.

"I'd love to help," she lied. "But it's not feasible. Have you tried Clay or Lala?"

"Absolutely not. I'd never ask either one."

"Of course you wouldn't."

"Aren't you going to be on-island at the end of the month anyway?" he asked. "For Felicia's wedding? Leave earlier."

"Dad, I'm a physician. I can't just bail."

"Don't you work, like, three days a week?"

"Three shifts," she said. "Which are longer than an average workday."

"You work in the ER."

"The ED. It's really more of a department than a room."


Her dad was getting frustrated, as Dudley Codman was prone to do when things weren't going his way. The man was loud and intimidating, like a dictator or the head of a drug cartel. But it all unraveled when somebody crossed him.

"Elisabeth," he said with a beleaguered sigh. "Have another doctor cover for you. No one plans to see you specifically. Don't random people just show up with a stab wound or whatnot looking for anyone with a pulse?"

"Also a medical degree. And we have precious few stab wounds. But I get what you're saying."

On some level, her father was right. It is simple to trade shifts, and unlike her colleagues, Bess isn't opposed to working holidays. In fact, she prefers it. She likes doing people favors, plus emergencies tend to be better during times of celebration. There aren't so many drug seekers and paranoid moms.

"I'm already taking off Memorial Day weekend," Bess told him, counting backward in her head.

If she did as asked, she would arrive ten days earlier than planned. That was no kind of option.

"And finagling time off for Flick's wedding was a major coup," she said. "They sort of expect me to work holidays."

"Why? Because you're a divorcée?"

"Almost-divorcée. And it's not quite that blatant. But, yes."

"Listen, I don't have time to argue," he said. "You'll go to Nantucket, help your mother pack, and drag her out of that crapshack she calls a home. Now, if you'll excuse me, one of my companies is about to release earnings and I'm positive they're going to post a miss."

"Dad, I'll talk to her when I'm there. I'll call her tonight! Surely nothing will happen between now and —"

"Listen, Bess," he snapped. "If you don't go, your mother will end up in a pile of rubble on the beach."

"Jesus, Dad."

Dudley's intrinsic mobster was leaking out.

"We'll spend months trying to sort out which pieces are bones," he went on. "And which are rocks."

And then the line went dead.

So, "dire"? Yes, he made it seem quite dire, right down to the shards of bone.

"I don't know, Cissy," Bess says now, once she catches up to her mom, a sixty-five-year-old lady who can outrun her three kids and probably half of the Nantucket High track team. "Dad made it sound pretty treacherous."

"If it were that bad, don't you think he'd be here?"

"He says the house is going to fall over the bluff."

"As if I'd let that happen."

Cissy jams her fingers into her mouth and emits a sharp whistle. Two terrified seagulls flap away from their telephone-pole nest. She whistles again, and then juts her thumb out toward the road.

"We're hitchhiking?!" Bess yelps.

"Don't be such a pansy."

Bess stands openmouthed, a bead of sweat crawling down her back. There goes Cissy Codman, folks driving by must think. Up to her usual antics.

Bess's mother is famous on that island. No, infamous. When Bess returned to the island to finish high school, Nantucketers almost seemed surprised that Cissy was something more than a municipal agitator.

"My mom will be here in thirty minutes," Bess might say.

"Your mom?" was the reply. "You mean Cissy?"

"My mom wanted me to drop this off."

"Who's your ... Oh, ha ha ha. Why didn't you just say Cissy?"

And so Bess started just saying Cissy. It was a joke, but then it stuck. Her mother didn't seem to mind, or even notice.

"Cis, let's rent a car," Bess says. "Obviously no one's keen on picking up a couple of grifters and this isn't exactly a thoroughfare."

"Have a little patience, why dontcha? Honestly, Bess."

Bess sighs, though a smile slips out. God, she adores that crazy woman. Bess fixes her eyes on the horizon. A few cars motor by, then nothing. She grows hot and impatient. How much longer will they wait? Alas, fortunately or unfortunately — Bess cannot decide — a white, wood-paneled truck appears in the distance. It approaches and then rolls to a stop.

"Is that ..." Bess says.

"Just friggin' fabulous."

Cissy drops the bike and then the suitcase.

"Go to hell, Chappy!" she screams, and raises both middle fingers.


"Polished as ever," the man says, and leans across the passenger seat to leer at them through the open window. "What a mess, eh? Well, Bess. Welcome home."

"Thanks," she mumbles.

"Here, hop in."

"This is fucking perfect," Cissy grouses, but she throws the luggage and bike into the back nonetheless. "I guess you're the only option, on account of my daughter's baggage situation."

Baggage situation, Bess thinks with a smirk. How painfully appropriate.

"Are you even allowed to drive?" her mother asks the man, their neighbor Chappy Mayhew, as they rumble away from the airport. "Don't you still have that DUI conviction on your record?" Chappy laughs and shakes his head. Bess can't help but smile. Yep, she's in Nantucket all right. Or, as Cissy would say, it's "just fucking perfect." Welcome home indeed.


Saturday Afternoon

"So how ya been, Doc?" Chappy asks as they splutter toward Baxter Road, Bess wedged between him and her mother.

Cissy has her eyes closed and her head pressed against the frame of the car. She keeps emitting small burps, as if she might be sick.

"Fine," Bess answers curtly. "I'm just dandy."

"So what brings you to our lovely island all the way from California? Far as I can remember, you haven't been round since your wedding. And that was, what? Two years ago?"

"Four," she says.

Chappy whistles.

"Wow. That's a long time away from your mom."

"Give it a rest, Mayhew," Cissy says. "She visits us in Boston and I go to San Francisco at least once a month."

"You do?" Bess says, and cranes her neck to look at her.

"Anyway, mind your own damned business."

"Wouldn't that be a treat?" he says with a snort.

It would be tough for Chappy to mind his own damned business, given that he lives in the gray saltbox directly across from Cliff House. Within shooting distance, as Cissy would say, with some degree of cheer. Chappy's been their neighbor since before Bess was born, and even if they didn't live so close, Cissy Codman is impossible to ignore, with that incessant biking, her town-meeting intrusions, and the general propensity to raise hell.

In short, Cissy and Chappy are natural enemies. He: a grotty local, the last commercial fisherman on the island. She: an indulged offislander trying to screw with the ecosystem and therefore his livelihood. Of course, as Cissy has lived in Sconset (mostly) full-time for over twenty years, she considers herself a local through and through. But the real locals don't necessarily agree. She is not from there, after all.

Cissy doesn't help her cause with the Back Bay townhome and tendency to abscond to Boston at the first snowflake, not to mention the millions she collects in bluff-restoration dollars among her Summer People squad. They are saving the shoreline, dontcha know? To benefit residents and visitors alike. Why, they're downright heroic!

True Sconseters aren't buying that claptrap, though. In their estimation, off-islanders don't care about Nantucket. They care about their fancy summer homes. It's their own stupid fault, too. Locals never would've been so idiotic as to build directly on a bluff.

"Minding my own business," Chappy says, "would be a dream come true. Ya know, you two are pretty feisty for hitchhikers. I'm only gonna pick up dirty hippies from here on out."

"Sounds like a plan," Cissy grumbles.

As they drive along in achy silence, Bess wonders if they should've biked after all. She has no real beef against Chappy, other than his salty demeanor, but being cordial feels like a direct betrayal of Cissy. Plus, his truck seems to lack shock absorbers. Bess swears her bones are clinking together.

"I assume you're here to pack up your mom," Chappy says at last.

"Yank her out of that house."

"Something like that."

"The fight's not over," Cissy reminds them both. "If I have to go down, it'll be swinging."

"Oh brother. Lady, I know you see this as a battle royale, an usversus-them smackdown ..."

"How many times do I have to tell you? There is no us or them. It's we! I'm one of you. I live here! We want the same thing: a better Nantucket."

"A better Nantucket?" Chappy says, and rolls his eyes. "Better for you. Using your golf-ball money to keep property values sky-high and screw with the environment in the process. I mean, really. Just buy another damned house, why don't you. Or better yet, go back to America."

Bess smirks. The hallmark of a true Nantucketer. He views Boston as "America" and the island as something else entirely.

"First of all," Cissy says, "that is my home. I don't want another one. Secondly, we sold that company ages ago, as you are well aware. Thirdly, golf balls were the very least of it. My grandfather started his company by reconstituting rubber scraps into usable material. In other words: recycling. Before it was fashionable to do so."

"Meanwhile, he had a factory on the riverbank, spewing God knows what into the Acushnet."

"That's quite enough."

"So this is fun," Bess pipes in.

"Listen," Chappy says. "I don't much care if your family got their wealth saving orphans or trading them on the black market or in some other way. I don't care and God doesn't care. Not even ballsy Cissy Codman and her sacks of cash can fight the hands of time."

"Ballsy. I appreciate the compliment, really I do, but you already gave this strikingly unexceptional speech two nights ago. We have a plan. Hell or high water, fire or brimstone, I'll get this done."

"There'll be high water all right."

"In conclusion, as I've said so many times before: Fuck off."

"All right then. You keep your plans. I'll stay on the side of Mother Nature and of God."

Chappy cranks the wheel hard left and steers them into his driveway. Bess can almost feel the strength and size of Cliff House at her back. She realizes then that she didn't even glance its way as they passed. Four years. Chappy is right. It's far too long.


Excerpted from The Book Of Summer by Michelle Gable. Copyright © 2017 Michelle Gable. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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