Published June 6, 2017
Flossy Merrill has managed to—somewhat begrudgingly—gather her three ungrateful grown children from their dysfunctional lives for a summer reunion at the family’s Rhode Island beach house. Clementine, her youngest child and a young mother of two small children, has caused Flossy the most worry after enduring a tragically life-altering year. But Samuel and his partner Evan are not far behind in their ability to alarm: their prospective adoption search has just taken a heart-wrenching turn. Only Paige, the eldest of the headstrong Merrill clan, is her usual self: arriving precisely on time with her well-adapted teens. Little does her family know that she, too, is facing personal struggles of her own.Two words kept popping into my mind as I read The Summer House: relatable and nostalgic. Flossy and Richard have invited their grown children, Paige, Sam, and Clem, to their summer house in Rhode Island to celebrate Richard's 75th birthday. What their children don't know yet is that Flossy and Richard are planning to sell the house their family has spent generations vacationing at.
No matter. With her family finally congregated under one seaside roof, Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. The Merrill children are both shocked and outraged and each returns to memories of their childhoods at their once beloved summer house—the house where they have not only grown up, but from which they have grown away. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.- from Goodreads
The first thing I could relate to in this book is the trouble with trying to get a lot of people together for a vacation. In my family, sometimes we start planning a year in advance, making sure everyone can get their work and personal schedules coordinated. It can be hard to get everyone together - people have a lot going on. I thought Flossy was a bit hard on her kids, getting angry with them because no one had visited the shore house the previous summer. But Clem had just lost her husband; Sam and his husband Evan are trying to adopt a baby; and Paige has a growing vet practice and some tension with her husband and teenage daughter.
The second thing I related to was the sibling relationships. The bonds between Sam, Paige, and Clem felt so real - siblings can be best friends or worst enemies. They know each other so well and they know what buttons to push.
As I read this book, it brought back memories of visiting my grandparents at the shore: packing up all our stuff - snacks, chairs, and umbrellas - and dragging it to the beach. The Merrill family has their own traditions that they lovingly follow each time they visit the summer house, like the first visit to the beach and going for a ice cream and a ride on the carousel. No matter how long it has been since their last visit, they still follow their traditions, and these parts of the book brought out a feeling of nostalgia for me.
The beachy setting was so well-established in this book. I felt like I was right there with the Merrill clan, smelling the salty ocean breeze, feeling the warm sand, eating the fresh seafood. The story was very character-driven, and I loved getting to know all the members of the family.
So - this review seems a bit different from my normal reviews, but that's because this book felt like taking a walk down memory lane for me. If you enjoy stories about families and have fond memories of your own childhood beach vacations, I think you'll love this book!