A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams.
I wish I could remember more. I wish I had taken down every detail of Nick's appearance, his expression, his outline against the gray buildings of the station, because I was not to see him again until the summer of 1938, the summer the hurricane came and washed the world away. - from A Hundred Summers -
Lily Dane is still a college girl at Smith in 1931 when she meets Nick Greenwald for the first time while at a weekend Dartmouth football game with her effervescent childhood friend, Budgie Byrne. After a whirlwind romance and engagement, however, something goes terribly wrong. Several years later, in 1938, Lily returns to the fictional oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island to enjoy another traditional summer ... and then learns that her once best friend, Budgie, has landed there as well, accompanied by her new husband -- who is none other than Nick. The two young women reconnect, but there is tension that strums beneath the surface and the local townspeople seem to be shunning the Greenwalds primarily because of Nick's Jewish background. And then there are the rumors about the parentage of Lily's six year old sister. As the summer unfolds, dark secrets begin to surface, while a history-making hurricane barrels up the coast and threatens to change Nick, Budgie and Lily's lives forever.
A Hundred Summers is a terrific and luscious summer read. Narrated in Lily's singular voice and moving back and forth from 1931 to 1938, the novel is compelling.
Beatriz Williams catapulted onto the literary scene last year with her debut novel Overseas (read my review). Her sophomore effort establishes her as a serious writer of women's fiction. She builds believable characters who hook the reader ... and creates sizzling romance interspersed with riveting historical events. The New England Hurricane of 1938 is one of those real events -- in fact, it is the basis for the title of the book (Williams explains in the historical notes that New England hurricanes of a Category 3 are called "hundred-year storms" because the probability of such a disaster occurring in any one year is about 1 percent).
I remember my grandmother and grandfather talking about the 1938 storm which they lived through. They told of huge waves, flooding and downed trees which forced my grandfather to drive through neighbors' back yards and winds which howled endlessly. In her novel, Williams recreates those tense moments perfectly and uses them to amp up the already conflict-ridden plot.
I read through this novel in no time. The way Williams sets up the narrative, flipping back from past to present, kept me turning the pages long into the night. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I really enjoyed this book! Readers who love women's fiction, but who are also interested in historical fiction, will be drawn to A Hundred Summers. But it is Williams' pitch-perfect dialogue, emotionally engaging plot and fantastic characters who will keep them coming back for more. I'll be looking for future novels by this talented writer.
Highly recommended summertime read.
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review.
Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".