Desert Isle Keeper
Out of the Clear Blue Sky
There’s something about a Kristan Higgins story that I love. She’s lately released a number of standalone women’s fiction novels, and I’ll be honest – each time I look at the premise I’m a little daunted by how emotionally complex the book appears. Death of a spouse, weight and body image issues, infidelity… none of these are exactly light topics. And yet each time I open a new book I’m so entranced by her characters and good humor that I abandon all housework (and real work) for a few days until I’ve finished. Out of the Clear Blue Sky was no exception to this trend.
The story is set in the small-town atmosphere of Cape Cod in the offseason, and centers around a few key women whose lives intersect in interesting ways. First you have Lillie Silva, a local nurse-midwife who has lived all her life on the Cape. She’s the happy mother of one beautiful son who is graduating high school and going away for college, and she’s married to psychologist Brad Fairchild. While sad to see her son Dylan leave, Lillie is generally content with her life – until Brad abruptly announces he is in love with another woman and wants a divorce.
Said other woman is Melissa Finch, a wealthy widow who has recently moved to the area with her niece. Although she puts on a good façade of being from the NYC elite (and technically it’s true, as her late husband was a doctor in New York) Melissa’s roots stem from an impoverished childhood in Ohio. She’s had to be calculating and manipulative to get herself to this place in life, and at first it’s easy to hate her as the other woman who schemed her way into stealing Lillie’s husband. But as the story goes on, Melissa gets both her comeuppance and a hard dose of reality which leads to some real personal growth. She’s not an easy character, with her ambiguous morals and focus on appearances, but she’s definitely an interesting one.
Two other women who play significant roles in the book are Lillie’s sister Hannah and Melissa’s niece Ophelia. At the start of the book they each have strained relationships with their sister and aunt. They’re very different people – Hannah is a sophisticated wedding planner who has long seemed ‘too cool’ for her younger sister to connect with, while Ophelia is a disgruntled teenager who believes her aunt sees her more as a decorative fixture than a person – but there’s a common thread of familial misunderstanding and miscommunication running through these relationships.
Putting these characters together – plus self-absorbed Brad and sweet Dylan, as well as various and sundry family and friends – makes for a hilarious, sweet, and insightful book. After years of everyone unknowingly bottling up their thoughts and feelings, Brad asking for a divorce sparks a chain reaction in the group. It starts with Lillie pulling little pranks on her ex and recognizing all the ways that she cared for him but got nothing in return. She starts talking to her sister about it, reopening that channel, and slowly becomes more satisfied with her life. Meanwhile Melissa is increasingly miserable dealing with Brad, and Lillie’s pranks, and Ophelia’s antipathy, until she finds herself pushed into becoming a better person.
It’s possible this sounds like a book you’ve read before – a bunch of women friends coming together over difficult events and growing as a result. But to me there’s something fresh about each new Higgins novel. The characters are real people who inject just enough humor into their difficult lives to carry off a good story rather than a revenge epic.
And I feel uniquely qualified to judge how real the characters come across, given that my mother is a nurse-midwife and I have many friends local to the Cape. Out of the Clear Blue Sky is not only a great story, but it has an authentic New England feel to it. It’s the perfect summer read, whether you’re on the beach in Cape Cod or tucked away in the mountains. So go forth and enjoy!
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer
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