“A gorgeously written novel on love, loss and family.” —NICOLA YOON, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything
Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.
Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.
The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control . . . or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.
★ “Masterful.” —PW, Starred
★ “A continuous, consistently engrossing narrative . . . deeply moving.” —The Bulletin, Starred
“A gorgeous exploration of family, secrets, and love.” —Teen Vogue
“You absolutely must read it.” —PopCrush
An Amazon Best of the Month Selection
A Teen Choice Book Award nominee!
About the Author
Visit Ann online at AnnBrashares.com and follow @AnnBrashares on Twitter.
Read an Excerpt
The smell of home for him, more than anything else, was the smell of a girl he didn’t know.
Home wasn’t the creaking three-story brownstone on Carroll Street in Brooklyn where he lived most of the time, but this big house on a pond that let out into the ocean on the South Fork of Long Island in a town called Wainscott. He’d spent half the weeks of every summer here and half the weekends for most of every year of his life.
Ray sat on the floor of his bedroom amid piles of books, clothes, old toys, blankets, rain gear, fishing stuff, and sports equipment, and he breathed it in, seeking her part in all of his.
It was an old smell, habitual and nostalgic, associated with the happiness and freedom of summer, the outdoors coming in. It was also a new smell, recharged every other week, adding particles of new shampoo, a new dress, shiny stuff she put on her lips.
On the achy and full feeling of it, he got up and lay on his bed, where her smell was always the strongest. It instilled old comfort, the privacy of nighttime. He always had better dreams here, almost never nightmares. In his bed in Brooklyn he had nightmares.
He lay there in his shorts and T-shirt. He let his sandy, dirty bare feet dangle, out of deference. He used to never think about things like that.
Sleep in this bed, though sweet, had gotten fitful in the last year or so. Sweetly fitful. Sweetly frustrating. The smell, with its new and extra notes, got to be as stimulating as it was comforting. He didn’t know exactly what those notes were, but they stirred his night thoughts in a new way.
“How’s it going in there?”
He sat up. His mom’s knock and entry were practically one motion.
“You’re taking a nap already?” she asked.
“No, I was just—”
“Did you empty out the whole closet?”
He glanced back at the dark, walk-in closet. “Most of it. I tried to leave Sasha’s stuff how it was. But some of it is mixed together. And some of the stuff I’m not sure of.”
“It would be easier if there was a light in there,” his mother pointed out.
He nodded. He probably hadn’t replaced the bulb in two years. He hadn’t cleaned the place out in a lot longer than that.
“Can I be done now?”
Lila gave him a look. “Seriously? You just threw everything on the floor. You have to deal with it.”
“That’s why I went back to bed.”
She retied the bandana around her head. Her pants were covered in old paint and clay stains. “You should see the kitchen. You’re lucky I’m not asking you to help with that.”
He got up, not feeling lucky. “Why are we doing this again?”
“The girls organized it.”
“The house looks fine.”
“The other family is doing it too, next week.”
“We should have gotten them to go first.”
“Just get back to work, Ray. I left trash bags and boxes in the hall. Stuff you want to save put in boxes. You can bring them out to the storage room when you’re done and stack them neatly on the shelves.”
He surveyed the shelves along the bedroom wall. He and Sasha had had their unspoken agreements over the years about dividing up drawers, shelves, and closet space and their unspoken disagreements about dividing up drawers, shelves, and closet space.
Almost all the books were hers. Her entire Harry Potter collection still stood there, along with Narnia and His Dark Materials. He’d contributed The Hobbit to her Lord of the Rings set. He’d read almost all her books except the really girly ones, sometimes at the same time as her. He got indignant when he was reading one of her books, like the last Harry Potter, and she brought it back to the city.
He got out a recycling bag for his old comic books and his random piles of school papers. Among them he found one of her old science tests (91%) and her handwritten book report on Charlotte’s Web. You would never mistake her rounded, regular script for the mess he made with a pencil.
The cabinet devoted to seashells, sea glass, smooth rocks, egg cases, and sharks’ teeth was joint property. He couldn’t begin to say who’d found what. They’d both been big hoarders on the beach. And all of it belonged to the sea, didn’t it? He got rid of some crumbling coral and left the rest as it was.
He didn’t bother with the bureau—since middle school he’d let her have the whole thing except one big drawer at the bottom with old sweaters and sweatshirts they both used. He kept his small and unimpressive wardrobe on two shelves and one hanging bar on the left side of the big closet. The medicine cabinet was at least ninety percent filled with her stuff. Granted, he had hardly any toiletries, in large part because he used her stuff. He was happy using her shampoo, taking a part of her smell around with him. He hadn’t provided toothpaste or dental floss in years.
There was a lot of semibroken or useless crap to get rid of. He spent some time going through the fishing gear. He had to admit it took up more than his share of the closet, but she was welcome to use it if she took good care of it. They had one boogie board between them and he still took it out sometimes.
Did she? He didn’t know. He found himself hoping so. He always imagined she loved this place, this pond, this beach, the weird house, this old camp bed under the skylight, as much as he did.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I started reading The Whole Thing Together without knowing anything about the book. I loved Ann Brashares’ Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and I wanted to read her latest book. This novel is about a very unique modern family. Let’s see if I can explain this correctly. Ray’s mother used to be married to Sasha’s father, and they share 3 half sisters, but they have never met. Their divorced parents never speak to each other, and they can hardly stand to be in the same room together. But the two families share a vacation house. The alternate weeks in the summer and weekends the rest of the year. Ray and Sasha share a room in fact. This is all a little strange, but it does set up for an interesting book. I had a hard time keeping the characters straight in the beginning because I was listening to the audio, and I couldn’t refer back to the family tree at the beginning of the book. Also, this whole book is written in 3rd person, so I couldn’t get a sense of the narrator either. It’s a story about Ray and Sasha, but also about their parents and their 3 sisters – Emma, Mattie, and Quinn. Emma is getting married, and Mattie is throwing her an engagement party. It will be practice for the wedding, since her parents will both have to attend. There was a lot going on in this book, and also not a lot going on. It’s a chronicle of the day to day and also the monumental. There was maybe a little too much with some of the parents’ back story. I think I would have preferred this to be a story about just Ray and Sasha – you see, they fall in love. But it was an enjoyable read anyway. Ann Brashares has once again created a wonderful cast of characters. http://opinionatedbooklover.com/review-the-whole-thing-together-by-ann-brashares/
The Whole Thing Together is the story of a family coming together in the most unexpected way. Ever since childhood, Sasha and Ray have shared almost everything together but they have never met before. Sasha's father and Ray's mother were married once and had three daughters (Quinn, Emma & Mattie) until a bitter divorce that formed two new families but the beach house was part of the divorce that neither one could give up. Everything was going good with this arrangement until the Summer that everything changed for everyone. It takes Emma to get a job for Ray and Sasha for them to finally start talking through e-mail. With Emma hiding her new relationship from her parents, Quinn trying to discover who she is and Mattie having questions of her own of who is she really related to; it all comes down to a party when everyone crashes with each other with the most tragic way to end a party. With this tragedy, everyone is forced to face the music and to maybe just maybe, be the family that was meant to be. If you read this book expecting it to be like The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, you are not gonna like this book. It's a different kind of story that you will either hate or love it. For myself, it was a good story from a Author that knows how to push the boundaries with her writing and not be a cookie cutter story. It was a little hard keeping track of who was saying what during certain times and it could have used more chapter breaks with each person having their own chapter. The ending was a bit strange for what had happened and seemed a little rushed for my taste but overall, it was a good read that kept me interested in it until the very ending! Thank You to Ann Brashares for not having a book like your previous books that was so different from the rest that made me like it even more! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging For Books! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley!
Ray and Sasha had a one of a kind relationship. These two were clearly sweet on each other from the get go. The way they thought of one another and built up a picture of who the other person might be was adorable. I enjoyed feeling what they felt. It was exciting to see how much they cared for each other despite being strangers. Although they weren’t strangers. Not completely. The sense or familiarity, comfort and security they thrived on from one another was engaging. I mostly enjoyed the realism that was captured about a family torn by divorce, trying to regain it’s composure. There was also a lot more diversity than I was expecting. I don’t like reading books with multiple POV’s. Two is perfectly fine, three becomes a chore to follow, but five?! That’s completely overwhelming. It became too complicated and too hard to keep up with. Mattie and Quinn’s characters made no real sense to me. It felt as though their POV was unnecessary. Emma I got, Emma I could relate to in some way. Though even my connection to her was very faint and still felt pointless. Alone that was a huge star detractor for me. As the story continued it began to lose more of its depth and connection to me. Another unfortunate star detractor. So much of the story should have been focused on Sasha and Ray. It’s very clear what the author was trying to accomplish. It’s just unfortunate that it was smothered by needless information. If you’re looking for a book that deals with real life divorce issues, how it affects the children, and doesn’t sugar coat it, then yes. If you like following a lot of characters, yes. This book had an infinite amount of potential to it.
The Whole Thing Together is an emotional story of family secrets, love, loss, and complicated family dynamics after divorce. So much of this story resonated with me. The prose is astoundingly beautiful and the story is one that felt personal to me. As someone whose parents divorced at 8 years old and later remarried and went through another divorce with their second spouses, I have witnessed firsthand how divorce and parental conflict hurts the children the most. I voluntarily received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
...but at the end, some of the plotlines are fully tied up with a big red bow, while others that should have been fairly simple to quickly tie up are left almost unraveled. I just didn't understand why some things were hinted at but not finished so in the end it just made it seem like an incomplete thought. I did enjoy most of the book, and found myself smiling on multiple occasions while reading. The ending, however, left me wishing for another 5 pages of resolution.
This latest novel by Ann Brashares is an absorbing, touching family drama. It’s the story of two families at odds. Once married, now divorced, the exes stubbornly share the same beach house alternating weeks so they never meet. It’s a coming-of-age tale that runs the gamut from first love to heart wrenching tragedy. Sometimes humorous, sometimes contentious and sometimes incredibly sad. It’s a great read, and I particularly enjoyed the e-mail exchange between Ray and Sasha and I loved how the author shows that a parent isn’t necessarily a person with whom you share genes, but someone who loves you and cares for you. Have your tissue box at hand, because this story is a tearjerker.
While I’ve watched and been inspired by Ann Brashares’ first series, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, I’d never actually picked up the books to read them, and hence I’ve never experienced Ann’s writing style. Which is why that is the first thing I’m going to talk about. The writing was so… ethereal. It was subtle yet delivered its point all the way, it narrated but didn’t bore and HOLY CRAP I could spend years just reading the way Ann wrote this book, because of regardless of my problems with it, it was GORGEOUS WRITING. What is this about? Lila and Robert used to be married. They had three lovely daughters – Emma, Quinn and Mattie and then after an undisclosed falling out, they separated and go re-married to have children born one month apart – Ray and Sasha. Their parents would do anything to avoid staying in the same room as each other – anything. And so despite sharing three sisters, a house and a bedroom, Ray and Sasha have never met. They have a relationship that never existed; they’re deeply considered strangers. Over the span of one summer, the lives of all five siblings will change. One will move on to another place, one will get married, two will fall in love and one will question who she is in a house they alternate, always split, never together. “What if she’s unknowingly traded her greatest dread for her oldest wish?” The things I LOVED about this book include the WRITING. Holy crap it was beautiful and enchanting and I wanted to wrap myself in it and never leave. Another thing I LOVED was the simple complicatedness of everything. There was nothing far-fetched or unbelievable about this, and yet the web of everything was so intricately knotted that I JUST HAD TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. I loved the basic premise of the story (even though it took me a while to get used to the names) and the characters. Like I said, I did have a few problems. The first was Sasha and Ray. I didn’t have an issue with the potential half incestuous thing, but what DID BOTHER ME was that THEY WERE SO IN LOVE WITH THE IDEA OF EACH OTHER and the whole FORBIDDEN FRUIT thing that they didn’t stop to see that THEY DIDN’T KNOW EACH OTHER. In the whole book, they would have had TEN DIRECT EXCHANGES, if even that. I don’t know WHAT that conclusion of theirs was, but UGH. DID. NOT. GET. IT. I also hated what happened at the ending. As is switch viewpoints, everyone asked Quinn, “Did you plan it like this?” BECAUSE NO. NO, SHE DIDN’T PLAN IT. WHAT SENSE DOES THAT MAKE. All in all, I was definitely captured by the magic of Ann Brashares. A poignant, beautifully written tale on what it means to be a family. 4 stars.
I liked this story a lot. When I requested this book, I didn't realize that the author had written the Traveling Pants books. I didn't read them, but I did see the movies. After I requested the book, was approved, sat down to read it, saw her earlier books, I was all set for a great read. I was not disappointed at all. This was definitely a very dysfunctional family. Three daughters were born to Robert and Lila. One daughter was born to Robert and Evie. One son was born to Lila and Adam. Together Robert and Lila shared a beach house. They took turns weekly sharing this beach house. Sasha and Ray who shared the three sisters, but weren't related, also shared a bedroom. You got all that? Robert and Lila did not divorce amicably. They fought over every little detail. When the switch came to change families at the beach house, there was a time lag to make sure they didn't see each other. Also Robert and Evie did not sleep in the same bedroom as Lila and Adam. They each had their own separate bedrooms. When the older three shared children graduated, the families made sure they were on opposite sides of the auditorium. Sasha and Ray were 17 years old and had never seen each other. That's how determined Robert and Lila were to keep the families separated. That being said, this was a great book portraying a lot from the eyes of Ray and how he dealt with this life. A story of irrational and immature parents, tragedy, family dysfunctions and sibling love that I truly enjoyed and did not want to leave. I really felt for the characters especially the younger ones who were being denied sharing a bond just because they were not blood relatives. This is a book that will stay with you long after finishing the last page and leave you wanting more. Thanks to Random House Children's for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
at its heart, the whole thing together is about family. it's about the family you are born into and the one you chose to build. it is about siblings who love each other and appreciate even if they don't understand each other's differences. it is about how our families and our place in it shapes who we are and how we relate to the world. the thomas-riggs family tree is complicated in that twenty-first century kind of way. lila and robert were married. they had three daughters: emma, quinn and mattie. then they divorced. it was very acrimonious. when they remarried, lila to adam and robert to evie, they each had a child. lila and adam had ray. and robert and evie had sasha. as part of their divorce settlement, they shared custody of a beach house, alternating weeks throughout the year. and sasha and ray sharing a bedroom. without ever meeting. they've come close but managed to avoid any actual connection. except this summer, their ever-industrious sister emma, finagles them a shared job. and for the first time, they must communicate directly. in seventeen years they had plenty of time to come up with an idea of each other. in some ways they shared their most intimate secrets with one another. but there was always the mystery the other half of the family, they never quite got the whole picture because their halves were whole. it's their sisters' family that fractured. this summer is different not only because sasha and ray suddenly open communication. emma is secretly seeing a man that she loves and adores and whom she is determined to marry, but first, she has to figure out how to introduce him to her crazy, splintered family. and quinn is floating, as she does. she gardens and observes and is there for her siblings with unconditional love. and they really do need it. and then there is mattie, who is learning that maybe asking questions leads to unexpected and unwanted answers, who comes to realize that what she always believed about her identity may not be reality, and who is stuck questioning her place in this already complicated family. it's not an easy summer. when things come to a head and everything falls apart, it's hard to see how they can come back from that. everything is so broken. but love, when given freely and unconditionally, the kind of love you have for your siblings and parents and those you chose to call family, is all-encompassing and healing. and maybe when everything is put together again, things don't look exactly the same, but maybe it's better. i loved the last summer (of you & me) and i think people who loved that book, in particular, will love this one. this is different in tone from the sisterhood series, even though that series also tackled some pretty tough subjects. in some ways, this novel feels more adult. but that's okay. it's really just a beautiful story. **the whole thing together will publish on april 25, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house children's (delacorte press) in exchange for my honest review.