The Summer House,
by Lauren K. Denton
Publication: Thomas Nelson; June 2, 2020
Sometimes it takes losing everything to find yourself again.
Lily Bishop wakes up one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated, but a flyer at the grocery store for a hairstylist position in a local retirement community provides a refuge while she contemplates her next steps.
Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago—just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw.
Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets. Lily soon finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins—a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over—and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.
Neither Lily nor Rose is where she expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve experienced so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren K. Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.
If you’re looking for some feel-good Southern fiction, then look no further than the upcoming novel by author Lauren K. Denton, The Summer House. The novel begins with Lily waking one morning to a goodbye note and divorce papers left by her husband Worth. Even better, they had just moved there and were leasing the home from the company he works for. So in addition to her husband leaving, she also has to move within a few days. Rose is a co-owner of a retirement village called Safe Harbor. She has been there for decades, running the place alone since her husband left her for another woman. Rose doesn’t socialize with others, doesn’t make friends, and basically keeps to herself unless she has no choice but to be around others. Everything changes, however, once Lily moves to the village as their new hairstylist, and an unlikely friendship forms between these two women very different in age, but both needing a fresh start.
I loved this story about Lily and Rose and especially loved how the author so easily found similarities between a young woman and women many years older. I’m not positive about the ages but I think Lily was around 30-ish and Rose was around 70-ish. When they first meet, they are both sad, and honestly, they are both lost. Lily’s issues obviously stemmed from her worthless husband, who ironically was named Worth, but she also missed her mother who had died years before. Rose was holding onto years of hurt and regret after events that caused her to become estranged from her beloved brother and his wife, Stella. But as Rose quietly encourages and cheers for Lily as she starts over, Rose suddenly decides to make some changes in her life. But my favorite thing about Rose and her desire to make her life better was that it all starts in her kitchen one night dancing to the radio. It was such a powerful scene that had me smiling and crossing my fingers that changes were coming.
My only criticism of the novel is the development of Lily. There were a lot of flashbacks explaining her relationship with Worth, and there were a lot of flashbacks regarding her memories of her mother. However, I found her character somewhat flat and strangely subdued for someone her age. Rose was beautifully developed making it effortless to picture her appearance, hear her voice, and feel her emotions right along with her. But with Lily, I’m not even sure what she looked like. This is the only reason that this is a 4-star read for me instead of 5.
Nevertheless, The Summer House is a fantastic read that will make you feel nothing but happiness as it comes to an end. This book made me cheer for all of the lovely characters, made me crave a cheeseburger, and made me want to further investigate Jimmy Buffett’s retirement communities down the road when we are older!
*Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.