Nancy Thayer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, and Moon Shell Beach. She is also the author of a new June release, Summer House. She is the mother of Samantha Wilde, whose debut novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, comes out on June 23. Nancy lives on Nantucket. You can visit her website at www.nancythayer.com.
At thirty, Charlotte Wheelwright remains the dreamer she’s always been. But when she begins an organic garden on a portion of her grandmother’s land, Charlotte learns to plant her feet in solid ground and begins to build a new life.More often than not, ninety-year-old Nona Wheelwright contentedly spends her time reminiscing about days gone by. But with her family’s annual reunion and financial meeting looming, Nona must give up her days of quiet solitude to soothe her easily riled up family.For decades Charlotte’s mother, Helen, who married into the illustrious Wheelwright family, has been pressured to adhere to their way of life. But when, during the course of the family’s annual summer retreat, she discovers her husband’s betrayal, Helen wonders if she sacrificed her dreams for the wrong reasons.Artfully written and set on the glorious island of Nantucket, Nancy Thayer’s Summer House is a vibrant and stirring novel about family, love, and daily choices that affect entire lives.New York Times calls it, “a Nantucket family-reunion story…well-wrought, appealing book will come as a pleasant surprise…packed with literally down-to-earth charm, what with a central character who escapes her family of starchy bankers by lovingly tending her vegetable garden.”
Charlotte had already picked the lettuces and set them, along with the bunches of asparagus tied with twine and the mason jars of fresh-faced pansies, out on the table in a shaded spot at the end of the drive. In July, she would have to pay someone to man the farm stand, but in June not so many customers were around, and those who did come by found a table holding a wicker basket with a small whiteboard propped next to the basket. In colored chalk, the prices for the day’s offerings were listed, and a note: Everything picked fresh today. Please leave the money in the basket. Thanks and blessings from Beach Grass Garden. She hadn’t been cheated yet. She knew the customers thought this way of doing business was quaint, harkening back to a simpler time, and they appreciated it.
Perhaps it helped them believe the world was still a safe and honest place. The day was overcast but hoeing was hot work and she had been up since four-thirty. Charlotte collapsed against the trunk of an apple tree, uncapped her water bottle, and took a long delicious drink. Nantucket had the best water on the planet: sweet, pure, and clear. It was shady in this overgrown spot, so she lifted off the ﬂoppy straw hat she wore, in addition to a heavy slathering of sunblock, and sighed in appreciation as a light breeze stirred her hair.
She couldn’t linger, she had too much to do. She took another long drink of water, listened to her stomach rumble, and considered returning to the house for an early lunch.
When she heard the voices, she almost jumped.
People were talking on Bill Cooper’s side of the fence, just behind the green tangle of wild grapevines. Hunky Bill Cooper and his gorgeous girlfriend. From the tense rumble of Coop’s voice and Miranda’s shrill whine, they weren’t happy.
“Come on, Mir, don’t be that way.” Bill’s tone was placating but rimmed with an edge of exasperation.
“What way would that be?” A sob caught in Miranda’s throat. “Truthful?”
The moment had deﬁnitely passed, Charlotte decided, when she could clear her throat, jump up, and call out a cheerful hello. Vague snufﬂing sounds informed her that Bill’s dogs, Rex and Regina, were nearby, nosing through the undergrowth. She thought about the layout of Bill’s land: along the other side of the fence grew his everlasting raspberry bushes. The berries wouldn’t be ripe yet, so Bill and Miranda must be taking the dogs for a walk as they often did.
She was glad the berry bushes grew next to the fence, their prickly canes forming a barrier between Bill’s land and Nona’s. A tangle of grasses massed around barberry bushes was wedged against the fence, and then there were the tree trunks. They would pass by any moment now. She would keep very quiet. Otherwise it would be too embarrassing, even though she had a right and a reason to be here.
“I never lied to you, Miranda. I told you I wasn’t ready for a long-term commitment, especially not when you’re in New York all winter.”
“You could come visit me.”
“I don’t like cities,” Bill argued mildly.
“Well, that’s pathetic. And sleeping with that—that slut—is pathetic.” Miranda was striding ahead of Bill. She cried out, “Rex, you stupid, stupid dog! You almost tripped me.”
“Mir, simmer down.” Bill sounded irritable, at the end of his patience.
Miranda didn’t reply but hurried into the orchard of ancient apple trees. Bill followed, crashing through the brush. Charlotte could hear a few more words—I’m not kidding! It’s over, Bill!—then she heard the hum of their voices but no words, and then they were gone.
“Gosh,” Charlotte whispered to herself.
Charlotte had had a crush on Bill Cooper for years. Coop was a hunk, but so easygoing and funny that when you talked with him you could almost forget how handsome he was. She seldom saw him, even though he lived right next door. Of course, “right next door” was a general term.
Nona’s property consisted of ten acres with ﬁfty feet of waterfront on Polpis Harbor, and the Coopers’ land was about the same size. With all the plantings, you couldn’t see one house from the other, even in winter when all the leaves had fallen.
Like the Wheelwrights, the Coopers mostly summered on the island, the Wheelwrights coming from Boston, the Coopers from New York. Eons ago, when they were all little kids, Coop had played a lot with Charlotte’s brother Oliver, even though Oliver was younger, because Coop was an only child, and the two families got together several times over the summer for cocktails or barbecues. Then came the years when they rarely saw each other, everyone off in college and backpacking in summer instead of coming to the island.
Coop lived in California for a while, but three years ago his parents moved to Florida and Coop moved into the island house, telling everyone he wanted to live here permanently. He ran a computer software business from his nineteen-sixties wandering ranch house, mixed his plasma TV and Bose CD player in with his family’s summery bamboo and teak furniture, and was content. Mostly he allowed his land to grow wild, except for a small crop of butter-andsugar corn famous for its sweetness. At the end of the summer, he held a party outdoors, a clambake with fresh corn, cold beer, and icy champagne.
Charlotte had seen Coop and Miranda about town now and then, when she went in to catch a movie or pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. It was obvious why any man would fall in love with Miranda Fellows. She was a dark-eyed beauty hired to run Luxe et Volupté, an upscale clothing shop on Centre Street. She was British, and her accent thrilled the young, beautiful, rich, social-climbing set, men as well as women. She was such a snob, and Coop was such a genuine good guy, they seemed like an odd pair, but Charlotte hadn’t allowed herself romantic thoughts about Coop.
She hadn’t allowed herself romantic thoughts about any man for quite a long while.
Her own move to Nantucket had not been a lighthearted, impulsive act. She’d thought about it a lot. She’d searched her soul. She came to Nantucket to get away from men—at least from one particular man—and to somehow balance with good acts the wrong she’d done. Her organic garden was her own self-imposed penance and repentance, and she’d been diligent and hardworking and nunlike for three years. She didn’t know when her penance would be over . . . but she knew she would ﬁnd out when the time came. Until then, she forced herself to work hard, every day.