Birdie, a divorcee, planning her daughter’s wedding and generally looking for things to occupy her time since her divorce from Grant two years ago. She proposes a last hurrah of sorts with Chess, her eldest daughter. who is getting married in the Fall. She would like to go to Tuckernuck Island (near Nantucket) and spend two weeks at the old Tate family house. Chess, a successful editor at Glamorous Home, initially is hesitant. She then decides to go with her mom.
Birdie calls the man who had been the caretaker of the house and asks him to prepare it for their stay. The caretaker is retired, but his son, Barrett, can take care of the renovations to those house. After being abandoned for thirteen years the house has seen better days. It needs a lot of repair, but Barrett feels that he can have it repaired in time for Birdie’s trip with her daughter in July.
Then everything changes. Chess calls off the wedding and she quits her job. She also cuts her beautiful hair. She flees the city to stay with her mother. And then tragedy strikes, her ex-finance dies in a mountain climbing accident.
So plans are changed and Birdie and Chess are going to Tate House for the month of July with Tate, Chess’s younger sister, and India, Birdie’s younger sister. Tate is a computer genius. Companies across the country hired her to come solves their problems. Technically she lives in Charlotte, but really she lived in hotels across the country. Birdie asks India to join them because she feels that she may be able to help Chess because 15 years ago her husband, a famed artist, committed suicide. India, in the years since her husband’s death has become a curator at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Birdie hopes that India will be able to comfort Chess in a way that she and Tate are unable.
Over the course of the month-long stay in the remote Island, secrets are revealed and relationships are changed. Birdie’s new relationship with Hank, who’s wife is in a facility because she has Alzheimer’s, fizzles. She turns to Grant, her ex-husband, when she is frustrated. India is confused. She has been posing nude for a promising art student, Lulu. Lulu has feelings for India and would like to pursue a relationship. India is about to be a grandmother. She doesn’t know how to explain that she has feelings for Lulu. She’s worried about how her family and colleagues will react.
Tate has always been in love with Barrett, but Barrett was more interested in Chess. But things are different now and Tate and Barrett quickly begin dating but things are complicated. Barrett is a widower with two young kids and financially indebted to a crazy woman. Tate is insecure and she is apt to snap judgments concerning situations involving Barrett.
Chess, on the advice of her therapist, is confesses her thoughts down in a journal. While she is unable to share what happened with her mom, aunt and sister, she escapes to the attic to write in her journal.
And now that I have blathered on, you are probably thinking that I gave away the entire story. But there is so much more to this book. During the course of the month relationships change and decisions are made. The author alternates ‘chapters’ for each of the four women. As the book goes on, the reader begins to learn more about what makes each of the characters tick and what thoughts they are hiding from their family members. The story is reveled through their narration.
I found the characters likable if not relatable. They each had flaws which made them interesting and more accessible. Though, I will admit I found myself frustrated with Chess. The length she went to distance herself from people seemed a bit much. I found myself pulling for Tate. For years Tate was jealous of her sister and felt ignored. She worked to get Barrett to notice her and after some struggles seemed to be in a good place.
That being said, I did have some issues with Barrett. I was never quite sure if he was interested in Tate initially when they arrived back on the island or if he became interested in her when it became apparent that Chess was unavailable and in a bad place.
What I liked most about this book is that in the end, all of the women found that the secret Island password was true: “Life is good!”. But the book didn’t seal it up in with a pretty bow. All of the questions weren’t answered. Would India’s family accept Lulu? Would Tate marry Barrett and become a mother to his children? Would Birdie and Grant re-marry? And what about Chess?
This book is a good summer read. It was my first by the author and I will definitely be checking out her other works.
Have you read The Island? What did you think? Have you read other books by Hildenbrand? Do you have a recommendation for what I should check out next?