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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

About Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for her five previous novels. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.

About The Castaways

Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourn their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy's closest friends for what will be revealed.Once again, Hilderbrand masterfully weaves an intense tale of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of endless summer island life.

My Review of The Castaways

Genre: Fiction - Drama
Finished: July 8, 2009

Andrea and Ed (The Chief), Delilah and Jeffery, Addison and Phoebe, and Tess and Greg are four couples that make up a group of friends who called themselves The Castaways. Living together in Nantucket, the group is as close as any group can be until a boating accident shakes claims two of their lives and shakes the rest of them up. While sailing on a boat for their anniversary, Tess and Greg have an accident and both are killed. What they leave behind is a lot of grief, a lot of questions, and some secrets that slowly start to come apart as people unravel. Most of the secrets center around Tess and Greg: what happened the night they died, why did Tess have opiates in her blood, had she been about to tell Greg about the affair she was having, and was Greg going to admit to the affair he was having and leave her? With the two of them dead, their friends can only try to make sense of the events without them and it tears them apart. The story is not really about Tess and Greg, but about the friends that are left behind. This is a book about emotion. Some turn to alcohol, some dream of escaping, some retreat inward and seem about to self-destruct, and some flourish. Phoebe, the pill addict, seems to blossom from the tragedy while Andrea, the den mother type who is logical and hard backed, seems to dissolve. Addison, rich beyond anyone's dreams, starts to drink and neglect life because he was in love with Tess. And Delilah, in love with Greg, can't find solace in the same places she once did and longs to run away like she did as a teenager. It is the full spectrum of grief and how different people react to loss. Every character of The Castaways is rich and full of life. Each one is complex and realistic, and you can imagine people like this living down the street. Again and again, though, I was taken aback by the selfishness of each person in the story. One of the greatest things that friends provide each other is a support group, yet none of the friends-- for how tight they claimed to be-- felt comforted by each other. The tragedy does not bring them close together. Instead, it almost tears them apart. Nearly everyone became consumed in their own grief, or in their own memories. But there is a lot happening to tear them apart. It is a little shocking that so many of them are betraying each other. In a way, though, this is good because people aren't perfect. Hilderbrand doesn't try to make ideal characters, but creates them with flaws and does not nurse their grief with excuses. Stark reality is really that hard and people don't always behave the way we'd expect or want, even the best of people. I was absolutely addicted to this book while I read it. I couldn't put it down, and I mean that with complete honesty. For a while when I started the book, I had to refer back to the front to get the characters and their relationships straight. It took a while for me to remember offhand who was married to who, who were best friends, and who was secretly in love with who. If you like complex relationships, this book will definitely appeal to you. There is also so much emotion in this book, and you want to keep reading because you want to see everyone start to pick up the pieces of their lives and heal. You want to know what the truth is. You want to see if good things can happen out of a series of bad.

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