Summer People by Brian Groh
HarperCollins Publishers, 2007
trade paperback, 311 pages
From the Publisher:
Nathan Empson has just accepted the most unusual summer job of his life. In exchange for serving as a "caretaker” for Ellen Broderick, the eccentric matriarch of an exclusive coastal community, he'll earn a generous paycheck and gain access to one of the last bastions of old New England wealth. But not everyone in town is welcoming—or even civil. And while he discovers companionship with a philosophical, ex-punk Episcopalian pastor, and more than companionship with the alluring nanny to the pastor's children, Nathan finds it increasingly difficult to ignore his employer's unnerving behavior. With each escalating mishap, a new aspect of Ellen's colorful past comes to light, exposing the secret lives of her old friends, flames, and enemies, as well as the story behind a scandalous incident Nathan must prevent her from repeating. Yet to sound the alarm about her condition would mean leaving his beachside oasis and the romance that may well change him forever.
Groh is actually a fairly good writer but he just didn't have all the elements together here to make this a fairly good book. This is an easy to read, totally forgettable novel. The characters are not developed and the plot fell flat. Not one character is likeable. The synopsis from the publisher makes Summer People sound much more interesting than it actually is - there really is no huge, secret revelation. What there is is an excessive number of rum and Cokes and a shallow twenty-something experiencing a large helping of teenage angst. It is an adequate debut novel. So-So
In the morning, Nathan awoke and discovered Ellen was not in her room. Her bed was clumsily made, the blue comforter pulled over rumpled white sheets, and her closet door stood wide open. opening
"Are you visiting someone here?" The man had a long, patrician face and unnaturally white teeth.
Nathan admitted, "I'm kind of helping out for Ellen Broderick this summer."
"Is that right? So she made it back. Well, good for her. She's doing okay?"
There was more in the man's question than a casual inquiry. But, distracted, Nathan answered, "Yeah, she seems like she's doing all right." pg. 3
By world standards, Nathan supposed his own middle-class existence was a life of comfort and opportunity enjoyed by only a fortunate minority, and he did not dislike Ellen....But Ellen had lived a life of comfort and opportunity enjoyed by a still smaller minority - a minority in which Nathan was not included - and in his gut he could not help but carry a dark kernel of resentment toward her. pg. 14
For the first time he saw the dilemma that would plague him for the rest of the summer: was he a caregiver, in which case he could soon walk back inside and suggest that perhaps it was time for Ellen to go to bed? Or was he just a chauffeur/cook, in which case he would just leave her talking with her friends? Neither job description seemed accurate, and as much as Nathan blamed himself for not nailing down his summer duties, he also blamed his father. pg. 17
Nathan took a few steps closer to her and said, "Listen, I'm sorry if there's been a mix-up. If you invited me thinking I was someone else, and now want to...you know...if you don't feel comfortable having me on your boat, I guess I understand that." pg. 35