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The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand


Ed was at work trying to figure out "what happened," but Andrea already knew what happened. She had made a promise and then not upheld it. God had waited years and years, but he had come back for Tess.

from page 148


I had previously begun the book Goldengrove by Francine Prose; it's about a girl whose sister drowns and how the girl deals with her grief over the sister's death. However, I started it over Thanksgiving and then got distracted that weekend. Meanwhile, Hold Still by Nina LaCour came in for me, and we all know what that one's about and that I read it because the previous post reviews that novel. I then read The Castaways and in the forthcoming review you shall hear what this one's about, but in a nutshell, it is about death and grief, and therefore, I decided to take a vacation from death and grief and in short order returned Goldengrove to the library unfinished and reserved some other titles.

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand is set on Nantucket Island (just like all her previous novels according to the book jacket). If you really think about it The Castaways has multiple meanings. It refers to the group of friends that the novel focuses on--and it is recounted how they came to refer to themselves as the castaways. It also refers to how the various members of the group become unmoored and awash, drowning and floundering in the aftermath of the devastation that follows in the wake of an unexpected and shocking tragedy.

Nantucket Island is a traditional, idyllic, small town community of good people. This idyll is shattered one windy summer day when Tess and Greg MacAvoy take a boat out to sail to Martha's Vineyard in celebration of their twelfth wedding anniversary. It is a special one that marks the survival of their marriage in the aftermath of a scandal involving Greg and a female teenage student where he teaches music. Instead of celebrating their anniversary, the couple's boat capsizes and the couple drowns that day.

The MacAvoys leave behind seven year old twins, a boy and a girl, and a group of friends, devastated by their loss, to pick up the pieces, to try and make sense out of what's happened. Tess and Greg and the three other couples were a close knit group friends who saw each other through past personal tragedies, who vacationed together, who celebrated holidays together, and who became an extended family on the island together. The narrative revolves between the perspectives of the Chief and Andrea, Tess's beloved cousin and mother figure; Addison and Phoebe Wheeler, and Jeffrey and Delilah Drake. As the tales of the friendships unfold, it becomes clear that the group was bonded not just by what they shared with the group, but also by the devastating secrets kept in this tight knit group. The tragedies of their pasts are revealed in the greater context of the present tragedy unfolding and enveloping them. It is evident that their pasts have shaped their present, and for better or worse the present will also shape the future of their group. The question here is how will the loss of the MacAvoys impact the dynamics of their close knit group--will this tragedy beget a greater tragedy if they allow it to wreck their friendships beyond repair?

Hilderbrand vividlys and viscerally depicts the grief these friends share; it is even more poignant when held in relief against the stories of the friends' vacations and happier times.

This book is available at the Matthews Public Library; you can also request it from Annville Free Library, Lebanon Community Library or Myerstown Community Library. I recommend you read it.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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