I don’t consider myself to be an overly sentimental person, but every once in a while, I feel the need to get lost in a frothy story where absolutely everything will turn out perfectly. Summer Longing, the latest novel from Jamie Brenner, is just such a book, and though I struggled with certain aspects of the plot, it’s still a solidly enjoyable summer read.
The story is set in Provincetown over the course of a single summer, and in it, we follow a group of interconnected characters, each of whom is grappling with difficult circumstances. As is common in books like this, we see things from the perspectives of a few key people, something I really enjoy as I find this narrative style keeps the story moving forward rather than allowing it to drag when one character is experiencing a lull in the action.
We first meet Ruth as she arrives in Provincetown for the summer. She’s hoping to live there permanently, but for now, she’s rented a house for a couple of months while she searches for a place to live long-term. She’s recently sold the company she started nearly thirty years previously, and she’s struggling to adapt to a new way of life. Ruth has a daughter who lives in New York City, but the two aren’t close. When Olivia was growing up, Ruth was extremely busy getting her business off the ground, and this caused a rift between mother and daughter. Olivia is much closer to her father Ben, who divorced Ruth when Olivia was a teenager.
The house Ruth has rented belongs to Fern and Elise Douglas, who own a teashop in town. Elise isn’t nuts about renting her home out to a strange woman all summer, but their shop hasn’t been open very long and the extra income will be useful. Fern and Elise have been struggling with infertility. Elise is desperate to have a child, but Fern has grown weary of the constant struggle. She’s ready to focus on their shop and hopefully mend their troubled marriage.
When a baby girl is abandoned on the front porch of Ruth’s rental home, Elise sees this as the solution to her infertility. She and Fern can simply keep the baby and raise her as their own. This would necessitate moving back into the house Ruth is renting, but Elise is sure she can convince Ruth to go along with it. After all, she’s not telling Ruth to move out. Instead, she’s suggesting they share the house for the summer.
I was initially put off by Elise and her single-minded focus on motherhood. It’s not that I couldn’t sympathize with her situation, but her inability to consider anyone else’s feelings was hard to deal with. She saw nothing wrong with failing to report the child’s abandonment to the proper authorities, and although I could understand her reasoning, I still wanted her to do the right thing. She showed very little regard for Fern’s feelings, causing me to wonder why Fern didn’t just walk away. Fortunately, as the story progressed, Elise’s motivations began to make a bit more sense, and although I didn’t end up agreeing with her eventual handling of the situation, she did grow on me as a character.
Ruth’s story arc was my favorite thing about this book. She wants to make amends with Ben and Olivia, but she’s not sure how to go about it. She starts by convincing Olivia to visit her for a long weekend. Olivia, who is dealing with some professional difficulties, ends up staying longer than expected, and the two begin working on their fractured relationship. Of course, things don’t go nearly as smoothly as Ruth would like, due in large part to the drama surrounding Fern, Elise, and the baby.
If you love books with a strong sense of place, you’re likely to appreciate Summer Longing. It’s clear the author knows Provincetown well, and her vivid descriptions helped me feel I knew it too. It’s a quirky, close-knit community, filled with complex, fully-fleshed out characters. I’m not much of a traveler, but reading this book made me want to experience Provincetown for myself.
This novel reminds me quite a bit of a Hallmark movie. Emotions run high, secrets are revealed, and romantic relationships are formed. It’s implausible in a lot of ways, but it’s strangely charming in spite of itself. I can think of worse ways to spend a summer afternoon, especially if you’re in the mood for something sweet.