Two Moms, Five Kids, and Lots of Family Secrets
The book opens with a woman sitting beside a hospital bed that holds her barely breathing daughter. The woman is blaming herself, thinking things would be different if only she, the mother, had been different. But who is the woman and who is the girl? It takes most of the book to figure this out because there are two candidates for distraught mother. Tessa and Rebecca are new friends and neighbors. They meet when they each rent summer homes on the Finger Lakes in New York. We learn about them in alternating chapters.
Tessa McIntyre is running away from her problems in Brooklyn, which include the “silently accusing looks” of her husband, Kyle, and the recent death of her mother. She comes with two kids in tow, Katherine and Ben, ages eleven and nine, respectively. The kids have problems too. Ben is repeatedly accused of being too rough at school and Katherine goes uninvited to birthday parties. The place Tessa rents, Pine Cottage, is a two-bedroom ranch painted drab olive green outside and decorated in 1970’s avocado green inside. It has twenty-five feet of lakefront. It was the cheapest place she could find, and she grabbed it.
On the other side of Pine Cottage is a gorgeous lake house with a massive deck jutting over its hundreds of feet of lakefront. This is the place being rented by Rebecca Finlay. She, too, is running away from her life, though it’s in Manhattan. She also comes with children: Charlotte, Zoe, and Max. Her children are close in age to Tessa’s – eleven, nine, and eight. Though her summer rental is sumptuous, it does not please Rebecca who wishes she were in the Hamptons instead. But there is some reason that cannot be. In fact, she says she’s in exile from the Hamptons. There is also some reason that she is at odds with her husband, Josh, and with her parents. She drinks heavily from the get go.
Needing a diversion from her life, Rebecca pulls Tessa and her kids into her circle. Since Tessa can afford little and Rebecca can afford much, Rebecca pays for everything including a summer membership to the country club for Tessa’s family. Explaining that Josh’s last bonus was two million dollars, she states this is no problem. But of course, such generosity leaves the relationship out of balance, and ultimately, Tessa is put in a position to balance the scales. In doing so, all hell breaks loose.
The more I got into the book, the more I realized it could be any of the daughters in the hospital bed mentioned in the prologue. It was hard to stop reading until I figured out who it was and what got her there. Bottom line, by the book’s end, I was gobbling up the pages. This tells me that the author is a fine storyteller.
As I learned more about Kate Hewitt, this is no surprise. She has dozens of books in print, some written as Katharine Swartz. It seems she writes two or three each year. I am impressed and will try other books she has written in the near future.