Title: Golden Girl
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction
Page Count: 384
Published by: Little Brown and Company
Date Published: June 1, 2021
You can find it here: Amazon, Bookshop.org
On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she’s assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer. Vivi also is granted three “nudges” to change the outcome of events on earth, and with her daughter Willa on her third miscarriage, Carson partying until all hours, and Leo currently “off again” with his high-maintenance girlfriend, she’ll have to think carefully where to use them.
From the Beyond, Vivi watches “The Chief” Ed Kapenash investigate her death, but her greatest worry is her final book, which contains a secret from her own youth that could be disastrous for her reputation. But when hidden truths come to light, Vivi’s family will have to sort out their past and present mistakes—with or without a nudge of help from above—while Vivi finally lets them grow without her.
Honestly, this wasn’t my favourite Hilderbrand read. There wasn’t anything overtly wrong or negative that I can say about it, but after being consistently impressed with her unique blend of social commentary, smart leading women, and the summer ripe perfect combo of a Nantucket Island setting with a little mystery nestled in, this one just failed to land on most of those topics.
Golden Girl lacked that … oomph.
I think a large impetus was the very fact of its set-up: our main character is dead and looking down over her children for one last summer. While I would never classify a Hilderbrand book as “fluffy”, they typically possess a certain lightness that Golden Girl was never able to overcome … it was just, sad. Always. And when it tried for levity, the juxtaposition didn’t work with the central plot. Elin Hilderbrand has an excellent ability to make grey characters – they are never perfect and shiny, but always hold insecurities and flaws that make them relatable, somewhat dislikable, and wholly human. However, in Golden Girl, I mainly found the characters to stay one sided – whiney and self-centred. Main character Vivian, especially.
While not my favourite by this author I still hold tremendous respect for her ability to form expertly paced, smart beach reads that centre on complicated, flawed and intelligent women. Golden Girl missed the mark for me, but I will always read a Hilderbrand book.
Read this if:
- Love yourself some good family drama
- Prefer a summer read with a heavier, emotional plot
- Need another whodunnit to test your mettle
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