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The Castaways

May 2, 2011

The Castaways

by Elin Hilderbrand

I have read all of Elin Hildebrand’s previous books and they all seem to share similar premises: the trials and tribulations of unhappily married Nantucket couples. This particular book is not any different. That said I read this book in just three days and it really is hard to put down!

The author illustrates the lives of 8 friends (4 couples) and how they are affected by the sudden deaths of one couple in a boating accident. Andrea, Chief, Delilah, Jeffrey, Tess, Greg, Phoebe and Addison or the “Castaways” as they call themselves deal with their grief in many different forms – from Andrea’s depression and resulting inability to get through even the most mundane daily tasks, to Phoebe suddenly and unexpectedly releasing her grip on her various pill addictions. Then there is Addison who we quickly learn was having an affair with the now deceased Tess and Jeffrey who still loves ex-girlfriend Andrea but also loves his wife Delilah.

Honestly, trying to keep track of all 8 characters was quite challenging in the beginning. I found myself having to go back to the first few chapters at times trying to clear up my confusion. The characters are all interconnected and it takes quite a bit of focus to keep things straight. Thus this is not a beach read but more of a serious novel that one needs to devote attention to. Easier said than done when you have a 4-year-old constantly pestering you with questions!

The author has a tendency to go into great detail which can be good but also a bit tedious. Do we really need to know what each person ordered at a restaurant in Las Vegas? Um, no. Does it matter how long Delilah’s labor was? Not really. But for the most part I did appreciate the great deal of depth that Elin Hilderbrand put into each character and I loved the detailed descriptions of Nantucket which sounds like an amazingly beautiful backdrop.

I found the author’s ability to flash back and forth between the present and times before the accident, while also flashing back and forth between the points of view of each of the 6 surviving friends quite remarkable. I have no idea how she kept all the characters and timelines straight with so many factors in the mix. I wish I had half of her writing ability.

If you are looking for an entertaining, well written book about marriage and friendship this is one to definitely check out. Not Elin Hilderbrand’s best but definitely close to the top. I also recommend her books A Summer Affair: A Novel and Barefoot which are also excellent.

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