Elin Hilderbrand’s books have been featured twice on this blog: A Summer Affair was book 38 of 52 of cycle one of “Book a Week with Jen.” I then reviewed The Island in 2010 (it was not part of a specific book a week project). 

I’ll repeat here what I said back in 2010: “Full disclosure: a few years back, I wrote an article about Hilderbrand. She’s lovely, writes the first drafts of her novels in long hand, loves Bruce Springsteen and Philadelphia. Part of that interview is blurbed on one of her book jackets. Small thrill since I like and her books so much.”

I still do. She’s a talented novelist, and I’ve never taken more than a week to read one of her books.

Last year’s offering, Summerland, was a dark one: four kids going to a graduation party are in a horrific car accident – the driver dies and her brother is left in a coma. It’s a sad book – an enthralling one – but a sad one. It even has a Greek chorus in the form of brief chapters of what the town is saying and thinking about the kids who died, the kids who lived, and the families of all involved. I reeled after reading that book. It was so powerful and so well done.

Beautiful Day: A Novelis fun. It’s about the wedding weekend of Jenna Carmichael. I’ve been through three family weddings (well, four if you count my father’s second wedding) in the last couple of years, and God knows so much can go wrong when you’re all trapped in the same place. Things are said. Tears, cried. Tempers? Oh boy. And the conflicts over blended families – said out loud and or hushed up – can simmer. And something always goes wrong. Always. I was the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding, and very sick and medicated (and swollen from the medication as you can see in the pictures). It poured the day of my father’s wedding – so much so that we had to use a hairdryer to dry his soaked linen suit AND that day was also the first time I was about to meet my new step sisters. I didn’t know that my brother’s wedding would be outdoors, and I had to walk down the aisle on my tippy toes. I wasn’t in my younger brother’s wedding, but I had a first row seat to some family strife there. Yeesh. Weddings bring out the best and worst in most families, as happens in Beautiful Day.

Which is why I say this is a fun book – because of the “we’ve all been there” factor. But it’s not a comedy exactly, or some frothy chick lit thing. The story is told from three points of view: Margot, the maid of honor and older sister; Doug, the father of the bride; and Ann, the mother of the groom. Margot is a divorced mother of three who is having a secret relationship with her father’s law partner; Doug is a divorce lawyer and unhappily re-married after being widowed seven years prior; Ann is a North Carolina state senator who re-married her ex-husband, but not after he knocked up another woman while they were still married the first time – a woman who Ann in a moment of who knows invited to the wedding.

The wedding has been planned by Beth, Margot and the bride’s dead mother. While she was dying of ovarian cancer, she wrote out how she imagined Jenna’s wedding because she knew she’d never live to see it (Jenna is seven years younger than the next youngest sibling, and Margot eloped). Passages from “The Notebook” breaks up that revolving narration. That’s the sad part – these women so obviously miss their mother, and their father does too, and their aching grief plays out over the course of the book – but it’s not fresh pain, which allows the book some levity. 

I read it in two days. I bet you will too. Thanks, Elin, for another great summer read.

The only question left is…will she write a book not based in Nantucket next? It’s not a problem with her novels, but it’s always something I wonder after I read one of her books.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.


  1. Anonymous on July 31, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Thank you for your thoughts. I have not read this author yet, but have had Summerland on my TBR for awhile.

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