Monday, July 18, 2011

The Beach Club, Elin Hilderbrand (4 stars)

In May, I participated in Michelle Rafter's Blogathon to learn more about blogging and get into the habit of posting daily. Through this challenge I met many interesting people. One of the main ways I pick books is through friend recommendations. Now I had a new source. Anytime one of my new blogger friends mentioned a book or author they liked, I wrote it down.

Since I generally read book club inspired choices, Elin Hilderbrand never entered my sphere of influence until I read Jackie Dishner's post about her. Jackie's blog, BIKE with Jackie, is about "life-changing adventures with a writer/speaker who teaches you how to live, laugh, play."

I picked up Beach Club, Hilderbrand's first Nantucket novel. It's the story of Mack Peterson, a man whose parents died way too soon and sent him adrift on a journey to find himself. Problem is he's taking his sweet time much to his girlfriend's chagrin. Maribel wants Mack to grow up, make some decisions, and ask her to marry him. Yet neither of them really know what they want.

Bill and Therese Elliott own the hotel Mack loves, but they plan to retire soon and pass the hotel on to their only child, daughter Cecily, who has no interest for now. Several characters lead you through the story, and Hildebrand does an excellent job interweaving their lives and making the reader care. Nantucket is a major character, too. The town is so beautifully described I asked my husband if we could make plans to visit soon. Since Mack is so torn by responsibility (his family's farm) and his love (Nantucket), it was important to make the place special and intoxicating.

The story charms you while reeling you in. There's an endearing side story about Lacey, a member of the Beach Club for forty-five years, and the mother figure to all the characters. Mack and Bill turn to her in times of need, and she brings them together. Childless herself and a widow, she lives for her extended family and their challenges and failings. Along with the Beach Club itself, she's the tie that binds.

Beach Club is a quick and absorbing read. I wanted to know more about all the characters, even during the times I was frustrated by their actions. They were imperfect but had rooting value, and I was emotionally invested. I must admit I wanted to know more about Mack's future, but he does grow up and make his decision.

Hildebrand has several books in her Nantucket series. Since she made me fall in love with Nantucket, I look forward to reading more from her.

Why did the book fall short of five stars? For a couple of reasons.

First, it didn't really cover new ground or score high on originality. It's a well-told story in a beautiful location with multiple story arcs, but I'm not sure it was memorable enough. Many books I enjoy don't stay with me, and I like to reserve five stars for those I think will. It cheapens a reviewer if they hand out five stars like candy.

Second, there was a spark missing to Hildebrand's writing. I wish I could explain that better. Quite frankly, if I could, I'd be the rich and successful author of a book all about writers finding their spark.

If you are looking for a beach read, one where the characters pull you along from page to page and the location makes you want to book a vacation, then Beach Club will not disappoint. Enjoy!

Has a book made you fall in love with a place? If so, did you visit it?