"28 Summers" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Summer might have faded, but novels by Elin Hilderbrand are always worth a read. Such is the case with “28 Summers.”
When Mallory Blessing, age 24, inherits a sweet cottage in Nantucket from her aunt, it doesn’t take her long at all to leave her clerical job at a head hunting agency in New York and make the move.
Mallory has spent previous summers as a teen with her aunt in a somewhat isolated area of the island 30 miles from Cape Cod in Massachusetts. She has always felt at home on the island and has never stopped feeling that the ocean view from the house is her own private church.
Mallory has inherited some money from her aunt, as well as the residence, so when she gets a job as a high school teacher in the small town of Nantucket, she is able to support herself without much worry. She buys a jeep to take her to other beaches, she learns to sail and purchases her own sailboat, and makes good friends. Dating is easy, but she has never felt the pull to upend her life completely for a man.
When Mallory’s brother, Cooper, asks if he can have his bachelor party on Labor Day on the island, Mallory agrees. It’s 1993. Mallory proves to be a good hostess by providing food and transportation for a group of Cooper’s friends. It is one of his friends, Jake, that changes Mallory’s life.
Jake is definitely Mallory’s soul partner. However, when Mallory learns that Jake has a serious girlfriend, she makes the decision not to encourage him to stay. She knows she will never move to a city, and Jake is not readily willing to give up his job or his relationship to a powerful woman with whom he shares a history.
Mallory also feels that their relationship is too special to turn it into something else; something she feels would have ended as badly as the ones she has witnessed during her life. She suggests that Jake be her “same time next year” partner, an idea based on a movie by the same title. In that movie, a couple meet every year for a romantic rendezvous that is kept secret from everyone else.
For 28 years, Jake visits Mallory on the island during Labor Day weekend. Neither Jake’s marriage, Mallory’s romantic relationships, or even Mallory’s child from another brief encounter disrupt their weekend.
Things become more difficult, though, as they years go by. Mallory’s son begins to refuse to visit his father during the weekends when he is older, and Mallory must scramble to find places for him to go. Much more challenging are the events surrounding Jake’s wife; she becomes a presidential candidate in 2020. Obviously, Jake has to be more than careful during his time with Mallory.
Each chapter begins with a specific year that includes an italicized listing of major events, places and people that were in the news during that year. It is a walk through time to read each opening paragraph. For example, 1999 reflects back in phrases to “gun control; Y2K; John F. Kennedy, Jr.; Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda; Egypt Air Flight 990; “The Matrix,” and more. I found myself taking time to reflect on the events of the last 28 years thanks to Hilderbrand’s synopsis. It is an interesting approach.
As with most of Hilderbrand’s books, the setting of Nantucket with its 360-degree ocean views, beautiful sand dunes, and charming town are the center of the story. Hilderbrand herself has lived on the island for 28 years.