Book Review: Summer of ’69

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Happy Tuesday, y’all! I’ve really been trying to focus on reading lately since it’s one of the forms of self-care that I love the most. Plus my TBR-stack of books beside my desk is almost taller than the desk itself, so I’ve really got to start reading them. And also… the library would like me to return them soon!

For me, reading in bed at night with a cup of hot tea or in the morning with a mug of coffee feels so luxurious. I love to fall asleep or wake up with a good book, and I’m trying to ray more before bed. Poppy often likes to check out what I’m reading… and then proceed to distract me (see the photos).

I was really excited about Elin Hilderbrand’s newest book, Summer of ’69, because this woman knows how to write a summer beach read, and y’all know I LOVE a summer beach book! Luckily, my coworker received Summer of ’69 as her Book of the Month pick for June, and she offered to loan it to me. Before I opened the book, I went online and read some of the Amazon reviews, and I’ll was surprised; so many readers seemed to think that this book—a slight departure from Hilderbrand’s usual novels—wasn’t that great. Let me just say this…

… I don’t know what those readers were talking about! Summer of ’69 was so, so good! I loved every part of it and flew through the pages, devouring the story. Here’s the basic plot premise (no spoilers): It’s the summer of 1969, and the book follows the lives of Kate,   and her three daughters, Blair, Kirby, and Jessie. The story is set on… you guessed it! Nantucket!

Kate is a hot mess because her beloved only son, Tiger, has recently been drafted and sent to Vietnam. Blair is convinced her husband is having an affair while she’s pregnant, Kirby is a feminist activist trying to make make her own way in the world while pushing the boundaries of social norms, and Jessie is a thirteen-year old who struggles with feeling invisible to those around her. The secondary characters—Exalta (the formal, old-school grandmother), Pick (the caretaker’s fifteen-year old grandson who lives in the cottage out back), Darren (the handsome African-American Harvard student who has captured Kirby’s attention), and Angus (Blair’s nerdy, analytical husband who is seriously involved with the Apollo 11 space mission)—add so much depth and conflict to the story. It’s a crazy time for the United States, and tensions are high both in the country and in the summer house on Nantucket.

I feel like Summer of ’69 was a beautiful combination of so many types of stories. I particularly liked Jessie’s storyline which was a sweet, painful coming-of-age story involving first love and first menstrual cycles. I could see a little bit of my young teenage self in Jessie’s character, and I loved that. Blair, Kirby, and Kate were also very relatable, complex characters. My heart ached for Kate and the crippling worry/anxiety she felt about her son while he was serving overseas. The entire book, I felt as if I was holding my breath, waiting for word that Tiger had become a casualty of war, which added another layer of suspense to the story.

Another aspect of this book that I loved was the historical significance of the actual summer of 1969. Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Ted Kennedy was involved the infamous  Chappaquiddick incident, and the U.S. was deep in the Vietnam War. It was a tumultuous time for the entire country, and I felt like Hilderbrand did a fantastic job incorporating these events into her story naturally.

Overall, I LOVED this book. I would give it an 8/10, and I would highly recommend it. I read it in about three days, but it didn’t feel as light and shallow (and I hate to use the word shallow) as some beach reads. It dealt with tough subjects (politics, interracial relationships, PTSD, views on the Vietnam War, etc), but it did so delicately and without bias.

If you’ve read this book already, I would love to know what you think. Also, if you’d like to follow me on Goodreads so you can see whats on my TBR list or what I’m reading currently, you can search and follow me: Emma Woodham. I’d love to follow you, too!

Have a great week and happy reading!

Emma

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