29 June 2022

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

I read a Hilderbrand novel every spring because for me it's like an official launch of summer. The majority of her books are set on Nantucket Island in the summertime and I just love going there mentally. This is not her newest book but it's one I hadn't read yet and I was glad to be reading more of her 'normal' stuff after striking out with a series she wrote set in St. John most recently.

The story is about the Carmichael family who have returned to their family home on Nantucket for one of the daughter's (Jenna's) weddings. The family has recently lost their mother, Beth, but she has left behind a journal for Jenna where she basically planned her wedding right down to the bridesmaids' shoes. Jenna, and her sister Margot who is the maid of honour, are determined to throw the exact wedding Beth planned, but Margot is older, recently divorced, and thinks Jenna is foolish to be getting married at all.

You'll lose interest, I promise you. You'll grow sick of it. And the enthusiasm that you used to have for having sex with Stuart will migrate- against your will- to something else. You'll develop an unhealthy interest in cultivating orchids. You'll be that mother on the baseball field, harassing the umpire over every pitch that crosses the plate. You'll start flirting with the cashier at Whole Foods, or the compost guru at the local nursery, and the flirting will turn into fantasies, and the fantasies will become a fling, then perhaps a full-blown affair, and Stuart will find out by checking your cell phone records, and your life will be ruined, your reputation will end up in shreds, and your children will require expensive therapy."

I love a wedding plot so naturally this book checks a lot of boxes for me. There are also a ton of sub-plot lines happening with all the members of the Carmichael and extended family, which gives the book sort of a The Family Stone vibe that I really like. 

Queen Elin in her Nancy Meyers-esque Nantucket summer home
The sub-plot that I was the most obsessed with concerns Stuart's (the groom) parents. When Stuart was a young boy, his dad, Jim, cheated on his mom with a single woman who was in their wine-tasting group named Helen. He got Helen pregnant with a son named Chance and left his wife, Anne, and their three sons to start a new family with Helen. Years later he went crawling back to Anne and she took him back. 

I can't imagine what your marriage is like after a 'blip' like this, especially since he still needs to co-parent with this woman he left you for, and, you have to play step-mother to his new son. Anne recounts a time right after Jim came back when Helen showed up with baby Chance on her hip begging Anne to let her have Jim. She said Anne's kids were older and she needed her more. It made me SO sad to think of Helen feeling desperate enough to do this.

Stuart and Jenna invite both Helen and Chance to their wedding on Nantucket so naturally Anne is in her own head a lot of the weekend. These were the parts I found most exciting, but there are a lot of other great storylines as well.

His emotional reservoir, where Pauline was concerned, was empty. This happened between husbands and wives every single day in every country in the world. How many hundreds of times had Doug heard a husband or wife say, 'I don't have a reason. I am just done.' And Doug, and Edge, and every divorce attorney worth his or her salt, would accept that answer without judgement. After all, human beings couldn't control how they felt. if they could, everyone would most certainly decide to stay madly in love their whole lives."

I usually love a good divorce theme but it was a bit overdone in this book I found. The story is about a wedding and Doug Carmichael, the family patriarch, is a divorce lawyer, so understandably it was hard not to beat a dead horse. There is lots of good content about marriage, choosing a partner, making the wrong choice, etc. etc., but the writing was a bit in-your-face where I prefer it to be more subtle.

The only other thing I found a bit obnoxious was the journal itself. Beth Carmichael left every single detail for Jenna's wedding planned and it felt very overbearing. Especially since she knew she was dying and who is going to ignore their dead mother's recommendation for a first dance song, but did she have no wants or wishes of her own??? 

Overall this was a fun, quick, easy read and if you like chick-lit this would be a great add to your summer list. It's not my favourite Hildebrand novel but it's by no means the worst and I will continue reading her stuff as I always have.

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