Summer Rental – Mary Kay Andrews
St. Martin’s Griffin/2011
Reviewed By: Sheri de Grom
Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews qualifies as a beach read, should you be in the mood to head out with a cooler full of your favorite beverages, a large umbrella, fluffy towel, and whatever else makes summer special for you.
The three primary characters—Ellis, Julia, and Dorie—are all thirty-somethings who have known each other since grammar school in Savannah, Georgia. They’ve stayed in touch with each other and gotten together for weddings and funerals through the years.
Ellis lives in Philadelphia, Julia in London, and Dorie still lives in Savannah. They’re tired of only having a night or two to talk when one of their parents pass on so when they were last together for a funeral, they promised they’d spend the month of August together and Ellis would be in charge of planning. There were two necessities they all agreed on. They would vacation at the ever-popular Outer Banks of North Carolina and they wanted a house on the beach.
Ellis loves the planning, finding what she believes will be the perfect place for their vacation although she’s never talked directly with the home’s owner. All communication with the owner of Ebbtide, the house they will be renting, has been via e-mail. Ellis isn’t sure about Mr. Culpepper, the owner of Ebbtide, but what the heck—the price for the house perched on the edge of the Atlantic is just right.
That is, the price was just right until Ellis loses her job to downsizing. She’s worked for the same Philadelphia bank her entire life and now they have the nerve to toss her out like yesterday’s newspaper.
Suddenly, Ellis is without a job and there’s none in sight. She’s not only jobless, she’s on a very tight budget, and she’s lonely.
Julia has enjoyed a successful career as a model and lived abroad with her boyfriend/photographer. At thirty-five, her modeling years are coming to a close. Her boyfriend, Booker, wants nothing more than to make Julia his wife. But Booker also wants to move to DC. He’s willing to give Julia anything she wants.
Julia’s afraid. She’s independent. Booker wants the big house and children plus wife at his side. Julia’s afraid she’ll lose her own identity and turn into her mother.
Dorie has remained in Savannah where she teaches elementary school and she’s a newlywed. Her husband, Stephen, was supposed to have been the fifth wheel on the vacation along with Dorie’s sister, Willa, as the fourth. Ellis and Julia didn’t want Stephen and Willa but the house was so big, they needed help with paying the rent. They decided it was worth having the extra two bodies to keep the rent cost lower among the original three. The house cost more than they’d wanted to pay but they insisted on beach front access. They made the trade.
When Dorie and Julia arrive at Ebbtide, Stephen and Willa aren’t with them. It soon becomes clear that Ellis, Julia, and Dorie will have to tighten their financial expenditures.
Maryn is a stranger and a woman on the run. She needs a place to stay and the three friends need someone to help pay the rent. Maryn isn’t forthcoming with her past or present and keeps to herself. Maryn doesn’t want much: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity.
Ebbtide, their home for the month of August on the Outer Banks, sounded so romantic when Ellis made the rental arrangements with the grumpy Mr. Culpepper. In reality, the house is falling down around them and the real Mr. Culpepper is Ty Bazemore. Ellis first meets him as he’s relieving himself off the balcony of the garage apartment.
Ty is trying desperately to save Ebbtide from being foreclosed on and had wanted to keep his identity a secret. Instead, he and Ellis are attracted to each other long before August is over.
Summer Rental is a light read and just what I was looking for after I read three literary fiction novels in a row. I wanted something charming and airy, set in a location I love. Mary Kay Andrews is spot on with her description of the Outer Banks. I heard the ocean swells, saw the sea grass on the distant dunes, heard the call of wings over the ocean, all the while knowing—whatever was for dinner—it would include corn on the cob washed down with iced cold beer.
The characters are oh-so-real. I can easily remember my thirties and, although life had thrown me a couple curve balls the same as it had Mary Kay Andrews’ characters, I didn’t feel jaded and neither do hers. Her characters have hope and know they can have the life they want if they make the right decisions.
I carry a book with me wherever I go and someone will almost always start up a conversation about what I’m reading. In the case of Summer Rental, the comments were always something like, “You’ll love the ending.” So, I’m not even going to say there’s a spoiler alert coming up. I haven’t read other books by Mary Kay Andrews but evidently everyone that follows her knows she always provides a happy ending.
I recommend Summer Rental for a leisurely read. You’ll relax and enjoy yourself. It is character driven by the three best friends, the landlord, and a woman on the run. What more could you ask for?