Saturday, June 20, 2015

Seven Days of Hilderbrand: The Castaways

While I love most of Elin Hilderbrand's novels, The Castaways stands out as one of my favorites, probably because a mystery lies embedded in the opening pages. In an attempt to salvage their marriage, Greg and Tess McAvoy head out on a sailboat to Martha's Vineyard, but before the afternoon is over, they are both dead in a tragic drowning accident. Their best friends--wealthy couple Addison and Phoebe Wheeler, police chief Ed Kapanash and his wife Andrea, and Jeffrey and Delilah Drake--are devastated by the news as they try to put the pieces together and help care for the McAvoy's young twins, Finn and Chloe.

The Castaways is told from the viewpoints of the survivors: Addison, Phoebe, Ed, Andrea, Jeffrey, and Delilah, and you soon learn the relationship among the four couples is richly layered and complex. Part of me had a hard time believing each spouse could be so oblivious to what was going on right under their noses, but I suppose these things do happen!

Phoebe is a once vivacious woman who has given her life over to prescription painkillers after losing her twin brother in 911, and her husband Addison falls in love with kindergarten teacher Tess after years of living with the distant and drug-addicted Phoebe. Andrea is Tess's older cousin and more like the big sister Tess never had, Delilah feels stifled in her marriage to straight-as-an-arrow Jeffrey and therefore drawn to the sexy musician Greg. At the time of their deaths, Tess and Greg were both still trying to recover from a sexual misconduct accusation from one of Greg's gorgeous and promiscuous music students.

The mystery unfolds as we get a glimpse of the inner workings of each marriage, including several child-free vacations the group takes throughout the course of the book. This is another area where I feel the reader has to suspend her belief. Could a police chief of a small island and his stay-at-home mom/wife, two public school teachers, and a farmer and restaurant hostess actually afford luxe trips to places such as Miami, Las Vegas, Mexico, etc? Out of the group, Addison and Phoebe really are the only ones with the means to take such extravagant trips on a regular basis.

Even with these small issues, I consider The Castaways a page turner, and breezed through the book so I could devour each detail as it emerged. Jeffrey and Andrea dated before Andrea married the police chief? Greg pursued Delilah at the restaurant they worked at in the evenings every chance he got? Why did the innocent Tess have opiates in her blood at the time of the drowning? And why is Addison convinced Greg was the cause of the accident?

Bonus: Elin Hildebrand's publisher, Little Brown, has released a new paperback version of The Castaways that includes an excerpt from her latest novel, The Rumor, a Q&A with Hilderbrand, book club discussions, and a drink recipe perfect for summer!

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