Set on the idyllic Nantucket island, The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand follows two best friends Madeline and Grace and their families. From afar, their friendship, their children, their husbands and their talents (Madeline is an author and Grace is a gardener/cook/homemaker extraordinaire) are completely enviable by all around them. However, Madeline is having difficulty starting her new book, the advance is already spent and yet she’s completely blocked. Luckily, she has a wonderful supportive husband who agrees with her that getting a “room of one’s own” may be just the thing for her to focus. When she rents a small one bedroom apartment for just that, tongues start wagging…especially when her first visitor is “Fast Eddie” who just happens to be Grace’s husband (which I thought was weird because he was only there for like five minutes and they were standing in her foyer…but hey, I guess people jump to conclusions that quickly).
Meanwhile, Grace has been feeling unwanted and underappreciated by her husband and twin daughters. Eddie is constantly trying to figure out how to close the next big deal because he’s spending more than he’s making (he’s in real estate) and the twins are sixteen and deeply entrenched in the high school social scene–Allegra at the top of it (quintessential mean girl) and her identical twin, at the bottom based on the fact that she likes to read and play the flute. Grace feels appreciated and desired when she’s in the company of Bennet Coe, the master gardener hired to help transform her beautiful yard in the hopes of getting it photographed for the likes of Better Homes and Gardens (or some such gardening magazine). When he returns to her this summer, he returns single and she seems determined to forget that she’s married. Their affair is just what…Madeline needs as inspiration for her next novel.
Based on horrible decisions everyone (except for Madeline’s husband Trevor and son and Hope (the good twin)) behaves badly. Madeline betrays her friend, Grace betrays her marriage, Allegra cheats on her boyfriend and embarrasses her family, Eddie gets in way over his head trying to recoup lost money from investments by participating in illegal activity but somehow, all of them seem still likable to me. The resolution to just about all of these problems seem mostly improbable to me, but maybe people are more forgiving than me and/or they can change more than I believe that they can. But as a beach read (or in my case: a terrible head cold caused me to stay home under my blankets all day yesterday), I enjoyed it. Someone else was just writing about Richard Russo who is one of my all time favorite authors. It occurs to me that while Russo really gets to the heart of characters and why they do the things they do. His characterization is masterful and he introduces you to an entire town almost each book. In that respect Hilderbrand could be considered something of a Russo Super-Light author (like if Russo was a fancy beer, Hilderbrand would be like a Bud Light Lime…which is perfect on many occasions and I’m not slamming her–I enjoyed this book a lot–it’s a nice little bit of chick lit). There are a ton of a characters in a small town interacting and their perceptions shape the hi-jinx and gross misunderstandings that occur throughout the book. I enjoyed her writing style and the backdrop of Nantucket enough that I purchased another book of hers as I continue to wallow under my blankets dreaming that I could one day breathe through my nose again.