Sunday Book Club: Summer Secrets by Jane Green

Recently I discovered a new library at the doorstep of my yoga center and I was amazed at how beautiful and clean it was. The books are also relatively new and clean. My childhood memories of the local library has always been old and brown books – I used to loved going there a lot but as I grew up, I started to feel disgusted at the dirt and sometimes food and bodily fluid stains that the public books have and I stopped going.

Anyway, I digress. The point is I’ve discovered a whole new world in an old love and I think I’ll be going back to the library a lot more from now on. Whilst there, I found this book – Summer Secrets by Jane Green. The book has a pretty happy cover and I was all expecting a summer pool-side read, filled with frilly love stories, but it isn’t really. It’s about a woman, Cat Coombs, who is struggling with her alcohol addiction and messes up her life; now that she’s recovered, she wants to make amends to people whom she’s hurt.

It’s a slightly heavier read that I was expecting, but I thought was a nice change to my usual chick-lit reads. This is actually the first book from Jane Green that I’ve read and I found it really enjoyable. There was a decent plot that connected from the start to the end, and I finished reading it within a few hours because I really wanted to find out what happened.

**This part of the review consist of Spoilers

Cat Coombs is a 29 years old journalist and an alcoholic in denial. She sleeps with random men and she has no recollection the next morning. In a moment of weakness, she asks for help from her mother – who finally tells her the truth about the identity of her real father and she makes a trip down to Nantucket to meet the family she never knew she had.

What started out as a wonderful reunion – meeting her real father Brooks, and half-sisters Julia, who opened her arms and accepted her wholeheartedly, and Ellie, a pompous woman who had no interest in having Cat in her life – turned out to be a disaster. Her alcoholism led her to being caught naked with Julia’s boyfriend and being kicked out of their lives.

Fast forward to today, Cat Coombs is a recovering alcoholic. She has been through years of rehab and falling back to alcoholism, but she hit bottom when her husband Jason walked out with her daughter Annie after one relapse too many. Now she has finally managed to stay on track in her recovery but part of that process requires her to seek closure with her past – and she has to reach out to those whom she’s hurt and try to make amends.

So Cat makes a trip down to Nantucket with her daughter and wonderful gay friend Sam. There she meets Julia, who is still single with no children; she tells Cat that what happened was in the past and was no big deal. Ellie has lost a lot since with her banker husband caught for insider trading and she still bears a grudge, claiming that Cat ruined Julia’s life.

At first, it appears that despite her animosity towards Cat, Ellie has allowed their children to hang out. However, at a girls’ sleepover when Ellie was away, the teenagers decided to steal a neighbour’s scooter for fun and ended up in an accident – Cat stays overnight in the hospital looking after both of them which finally earns her a better treatment from Ellie. It turns out that Julia had lied to both of them and let the two teenagers hang out secretly.

Back at the cottage in Nantucket, Julia comes home to see Cat flirting with her ex-husband Jason and feels heartbroken as she still loves him. One evening, he went out and didn’t get back for a long time which sent Cat into a panic and she runs out trying to find him. She finds him in a bar, kissing Julia; Julia catches Cat’s eye and smiled. We find out that Julia has actually been holding a grudge all these years and was looking for a way to hurt Cat back, whilst Ellie, despite her cool-demeanor, is actually just being honest.

But in the end, all’s well that ends well. Julia goes back to London and confesses her pain at an AA meeting – one that she didn’t know Jason was at as well, and Jason finds out just how much she still loves him. He claims that Julia was drunk and wouldn’t let him leave. After much fuss, the book ends with them going out on a date together fixed up by Sam.

Final Thoughts

Cat is flawed as a person, but somehow likeable; we see her struggling through her alcoholism with little willpower at the beginning and finally finding her footing when she hits rock bottom and I can somehow relate to that. I’m not an alcoholic but I think the addiction problem can be said about other issues in life. The problems that all the characters face are pretty realistic and I like it. Everyone needs to work to survive, they have their money woes and their children to worry about. It’s realistic but interesting because I can relate to them.

I really like the gay friend – and I like how the author has described him. It almost makes me feel as though the gay friend was a real person (mostly because it is exactly what my gay friends are like). He sound like such a wonderful and lovely person. The other characters are also quite well rounded and easy to like – mostly, I like that no one in the story is exceeding stupid which is the case with a lot of chick-lit. Here, I think Jane Green has done a great job.

At first, I didn’t like how often the author switched back and forth between the years in the first few chapters – it’s slightly bizarre when it happens too fast – but eventually the switches came on at longer intervals and it was a much better read in the later chapters. I enjoyed the writing – it’s easy to read, and the pace was decent.

In a nutshell, I like the story which is pretty heartwarming while being rather realistic. It’s not too fluffy, but not too heavy – in Goldilocks term I would say it’s not too hot and not too cold – a great easy read for people who can’t stand books that are too simple but still wants something light for the beach.

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