Once in a while, I'm reading along in a book, and I stop, call my mother, and say, "I have a book you have to read." This week, it was Patti Callahan Henry's Driftwood Summer, although I warned her I had only read twenty-seven pages before I called. Fortunately, Henry's book didn't let me down. It's a perfect book for summer reading, or for book groups. It had complicated relationships, a bookstore, a beach setting, and sighs at the end. What more do you want?
How about an opening that captures a reader's imagination? "Bookstore owner Riley Sheffield believed that even the most ordinary life was like a good novel, a tale to be told. Her own life was full of twists and turns, secrets and surprises, with narrative threads that intertwined with the fabric of other people's lives. Her story revolved around a two-hundred-year-old cottage on the beach - Driftwood Cottage Bookstore."
Henry takes readers to Palmetto Beach, Georgia, a seaside, summer resort town. We're all invited to Driftwood Cottage Bookstore for the 200th anniversary of the cottage itself, twelve years as a bookstore. It's also the 70th birthday of Kitsy Sheffield, co-owner of the store with her daughter, Riley. Riley, is thirty, the oldest of three sisters, and the single mother of a twelve-year-old son, Braydon. She and her mother have planned a week long celebration, hoping to make enough money to save the bookstore, and keep it from closing.
So, Riley's sisters are called home, although neither want to return. Maisy and her sister had a fight thirteen years ago, when both loved Mack Logan. That fight led to actions that each kept secret, but whose repercussions still echo in the family. Maisy fled to California, and hasn't returned. Now, she's a successful interior designer, but her mother and older sister still make her feel young, wild, and irresponsible. Adalee Sheffield comes back from Auburn, angry that she can't spend the summer with her boyfriend, Chad. Both sisters are angry they had to return to save Riley's bookstore.
At Kitsy Sheffield's invitation, her daughters return home, and the entire community is welcomed. That includes Mack Logan, whose appearance could stir up old emotions. Driftwood Summer brings together a group of people, only now discovering the consequences of their youthful actions. As Maisy thinks, "Legend says that Driftwood Cottage is a place where people connect and all stories have happy endings. But maybe Driftwood Cottage is a place where all of our stories are played out over and over, again and again, none of them ever really ending, just continuing...."
Sisters, lost love, secrets, a bookstore and book groups. Driftwood Summer is the perfect summer read, an interesting book group book, just a satisfying novel. It's a magical story. It was special enough to call my mother and say, "You'll want to read this." Now, I can tell you, "You'll want to read this."
Patti Callahan Henry's website is www.patticallahanhenry.com
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Driftwood Summer by Patti Callahan Henry. Penguin, ©2009. ISBN 9780451226884 (paperback), 384p.
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