Title: The Summerhouse
Author: Jude Deveraux
Usually when a friend recommends a book to me, especially when it’s a very commercial women’s fiction title, I smile and nod, and never take the recommendation. But this friend said she read The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux over the course of a weekend, it’s one of her favorites, the characters go back in time, etc. I was hooked. I love a good do-over story!
The premise of The Summerhouse is that three friends, Madison, Ellie, and Leslie, who met 20 years ago at a DMV (and haven’t talked since), meet up again and sort of assess their lives. After Madison and Ellie detail how they ended up at this point in their life (none of them are happy), they are given a chance to go back in time for a short period of time, and when they come back they can choose their old life or the new life.
I love the premise of The Summerhouse because who of us hasn’t wondered what life might be like if we’d gone a different route. I’m very happy and content with my life, but I wonder how much different it might be if I’d gone to college (college was discouraged in the religion I was raised in). Would I have ended up in the same place? Different career, different city, different life?
Except that I found The Summerhouse to be rather shallow. One of the main characters, Madison, is so gorgeous she could have been a model, Ellie is a successful author who hit it big with her first book, and Leslie is a house wife who has lost her own identity in her marriage and family life (two of them are probably the 1% of the 1%). I’m not saying that gorgeous people can’t have problems, I’m just saying that I get tired of the same ol’ characters in books, and I got three of them for the price of one here. Also, I tend to gravitate towards rather dark books, because I think we really find out who we are when we are at our absolutely lowest, darkest periods of life, or when the choices are agonizing or morally ambiguous. It could be argued these women were at their lowest when they meet up, but I didn’t see it. They weren’t happy, but did their stories make me analyze any part of my own life, as the best books do? No.
The ending was fine, but I was underwhelmed by all of their stories and choices and endings. Leslie’s story, in particular, felt very undeveloped, even though it had the most potential for difficulty and depth.
For books that send a character back in time to make different (or the same!) choices, I much preferred Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch.