All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Castaways – Elin Hilderbrand

on March 21, 2014

CastawaysThe Castaways
Elin Hilderbrand
Hodder & Stoughton
2009, 359p
Read from my TBR pile

They are a close-knit circle of friends, four couples who once laughingly nicknamed themselves ‘The Castaways’. They live on the island of Nantucket: Greg and Tess, Jeremy and Delilah, the Chief and Andrea and Addison and Phoebe. They were all quite different but they had been friends for years – socialising together, holidaying together.

But then Greg and Tess are tragically killed in a boating accident on their twelfth wedding anniversary and things as The Castaways know them begin to fall apart. Greg and Tess leave behind seven year old twins and Andrea, Tess’s cousin, although adamant about taking them in, finds herself so stricken in her grief that she simply isn’t up to the task. She’s too far gone in her own loss to be the rock the twins need right now. But she won’t let anyone else take them for a while, ease the burden either.

All of the friends are keeping secrets – about what they know, about their relationships with the recently deceased. For some, they are mourning far more than the loss of a friend and they can’t talk about it. For others, it is the realisation that they may have not known everything they thought they did about someone very dear to them. As the friends grieve, the secrets will all begin to come out and only once they have can the group all look at moving forward with their lives.

I’ve had this book sitting on my TBR shelf for a long time. I remember not long after we moved into this house, Borders (anyone remember them?!) had a huge warehouse sale that turned out to be about 20 minutes away. My husband and I went and bought 5 bags of books for about $150. They were all $1, $2 or $5 each and most of them have been patiently waiting for me to read them ever since. I picked up this one yesterday because I’m trying to read more of my own books as well as devoting time to review copies.

For the most part, I didn’t mind the story but the revolving points of view between the six surviving members of the group did occasionally pull me out of it. I would just be getting settled into one person’s feelings and then it’d be on to the next person and occasionally I just wished it didn’t change quite so often. There’s also a huge amount of backstory for all of the characters which bogged the book down at times.

The group of friends are interesting enough but they are a bit incestuous. Of the eight of them, there were a lot of confused feelings and several affairs or would-be affairs and it all seemed very close to home. One of the women, Andrea, had previously dated another of the men in the group before she married the Chief and it seemed like a lot of the characters had very unresolved feelings toward each other. Several of the relationships (Andrea and Tess most definitely) are very suffocating and you wonder how people could actually stand to be around each other that much and be involved in each other’s lives that much. I don’t have a twin so I don’t know what that connection is like but I found Phoebe’s story of losing her twin brother in September 11 both horrifying and a little uncomfortable. She completely withdrew from life after his death – was unable to function without a cocktail of pills to numb everything. Her husband and friends tried their best to help her, to try and get her to seek help in ways other than tablets but in some ways they also enabled her, including coming to her when they needed any form of medication. A Valium here, a Xanax there. Maybe something for the pain, or a muscle relaxant.

The author lives on Nantucket and from what I gather, most if not all of her books appear to be set there. I don’t know much about Nantucket but I’d have liked to read more about it in the book. It really could have been set anywhere – apart from the section where Delilah takes the plane to the mainland to take the children to see a movie, there’s really nothing else that lets you know that it is set on a small island.

The Castaways moves along at a very even pace throughout the story and there are no real peaks and lows, for me. There are several reveals throughout and at the end that are probably meant to be quite dramatic but they never really felt that way. Each new piece of information is revealed quietly, usually in confidence or flashback and then things move on to another character and another point of view. It isn’t until the end that people begin to share information. It’s a pleasant read but lacks real dramatic impact and the kind of characters that can carry it and the relationships within it.

5/10

Book #66 of 2014

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