I saw this on Net Galley and it ticked all the summer boxes: Big family saga, World War II to the present, well off people, a close knit summer community. Oh goody! If only I could stand to read at the neighborhood pool it would be perfect! So, thank you Net Galley and here is my honest review.
Maren Larsen marries preppy doctor Oliver Demarest during World War II. Though very young he has been put to work at Walter Reed in DC instead of in a field hospital in Europe. Maren is a “cadet nurse” and meets him on the job. Oliver’s family is part of the summer community at Haven Point in Maine. All the Haven Pointers are very well-off, completely WASP-y and even have the same Labrador dogs. Maren is from a farm family in Minnesota, but Oliver loves her.
Maren soon finds out why her new husband is never eager to spend time with his parents. As the years go on Oliver and Maren’s children go to Haven Point and interact with the same summer families–and the same outcast or local families, as all other generations have.
I wanted to thoroughly immerse myself in this family and love this book. But, I kept forgetting who characters were. Oliver, for instance. He was the one that really made me feel this had been submitted as a 750 page old school family saga, but got whittled down to a few sound bytes per generation to almost meet the suburban book club 300 page maximum (it manages 377 pages). We really never learn anything valuable about the inner workings of any character. Maren just trots off to Maine each year with the kids and puts up with in-laws she doesn’t like to make her Doctor husband happy. She even endures the Preppy mother-in-law acquiring a pet monkey without a single “Is that wise” comment over the cocktails.
Oliver, her husband, the doctor, stays in DC but apparently can’t bear for his children not to grow up in the Haven Point Yacht Club instead of the exact same club closer to home in, say Delaware. Then there is Kahki?? Kathy? (this is a problem with listening to audios–if the name doesn’t appear in the online preview you’re stuck guessing)–who was she again? I couldn’t get a grip on some of these names because we learned to little that mattered about them. Never mind that there is also a man called “Cappy.” I had to remember who he was each time, too.
I think I am going to start ignoring “dual timeline” books [thank you to which ever excellent book blogger admitted that a week or so ago–it was liberating to read it and know I wasn’t the only one]. I’m tired of a book that reads like it’s been thrown up in the air and then put back together–sort of. A family saga should progress through the generations. This one lurched forward, then back, like a car with a manual transmission being driven by a newbie.
Things the editor should have caught:
Sometimes I can ignore stuff–sometimes I can’t. This one kept my interest well enough that I wanted to finish it. But, I could overlook a few things:
It was called “the receiver.” The “handset” came way later when we got cordless phones. Got it?
Hairspray wasn’t around in World War II so forget the ladies with their “sprayed” hair.
No one, until about last year, used the phrase “his truth.” A character would not even have THOUGHT that in the 1960s, but there it was. A Glaring no-no–giving them thoughts out of their era. Not huge, but like a missed note in a solo by a great professional. In spite of that, it WAS ok to use the phrase “her truth” in a modern day scene–though I truly loathe that idea. We value others’ “perceptions.” Their perception may or may not be true. It is asinine to label something “my truth” or “your truth” or whoever’s truth.” There is true and their is false. Perceptions are owned. Truth is not. The phrase is not the author’s fault–just its misuse in a 1960s scene which a better editor would have caught.
Publishers, please hire real editors and fact checkers. Spell Check is neither.
Haven Point: A Novel by Virginia Hume