I thought I had read all of Anne Rivers Siddons but I stumbled across The Girls of August at a tag sale, and the cover didn’t look familiar, so I picked it up for about $2. This is a different path than the one Siddons normally takes, and I’m not sure I liked it all that much.
Maddy, Barbara, Melinda, and Rachel meet when their husbands are in medical school, and together, they begin a traditional of going to a beach house for a week every August. No kids, no husbands, no phones, just the four of them, reconnecting and recovering from a crazy year. But when Melinda dies in a car accident – and there are shadowy references to her husband having caused the accident by driving drunk – the foursome becomes a threesome and falls apart. A few years later, Melinda’s widower remarries, and his new wife, the unfortunately named Baby, invites the three remaining girls of August to her family’s beach house on an island off the coast of South Carolina.
None of the women want to go; at least, they don’t want to go with Baby, but seeing as it would be rude to partake in Baby’s hospitality and uninvite her at the same time, they all pack up for a week on a mostly deserted island with their husbands’ friend’s new chippie. On arrival, it quickly becomes apparent that, while Baby may be young, she is not a gold digger; the family estate is quite grand. In keeping with the grand tradition of beach reads, the women each have a life-changing secret – one is pregnant, one is sick, one is having marital issues – and they all threaten to spill over during the climax of the novel when a terrible storm hits the island. Once the storm has passed, the women are “changed in ways they never expected”.
Blah blah blah. What this book really is about is three middle-aged mean girls who arrived on this island with chips on their shoulders and who were downright cruel to Baby. Maybe I missed something big, or maybe Siddons wrote a chapter that got cut, but I didn’t see what was so terrible about Baby other than the fact that she was younger and definitely out of her depth with these women. Yes, it’s tough to be middle-aged and fighting cellulite while you lay on the beach next to a twenty-something tanned and toned goddess. Named BABY for Pete’s sake. But Baby couldn’t have been nicer, even in the face of the women’s horrible treatment of her. And you know, we have enough of this infighting in real life – who is a better parent, who is a better boss, who is a better friend, who is a better employee, who is a better woman. I don’t really want to read about it in my down time.
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