“The Summer House”
Author: Lauren K. Denton
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)
Only a few months ago Lauren Denton published her third novel, “Glory Road,” and now we have her newest, “The Summer House,” released in June as a summer read.
This tale is set in the barely fictional town of Bon Secour Bay, Alabama, in Safe Harbor Village at what we now call an active living community, not to be confused with a retirement village or, even worse, an old folks’ home.
“Safe Harbor” is explained as a loose translation of “bon secour.”
Life in Safe Harbor Village looks darned pleasant to me. There is a café with good food, a small boutique, the Pink Pearl, Sunday afternoon cocktail parties, where the music is Jimmy Buffet and Bruce Springsteen, a nurse three days a week, paddle boat tours, a second-hand bookstore, Beach Reads, the village newsletter, “The Village Vine,” expeditions by pontoon boat eastward down the inland waterway to Wolf Bay for cheeseburgers
I would live there myself, maybe. Most of the residents are women, but that is mostly because most of their husbands are deceased.
Most, but not all.
Rose Garrigan, the manager and half owner, 68 years old, is a stern and grumpy lady who wears her hair in a bun, has for years.
Her husband, Terry, long ago ran off with their secretary. Rose has been sort of frozen ever since, in her hair style and her personality.
In Foley, Alabama, Lily Bishop, a wife of about one year, wakes up and goes into the kitchen of her “drab rental home” off Highway 59 to find not a brewing pot of coffee but a note from her husband, Worth.
It reads: “Lily, I can’t do this anymore. You deserve more than what I can give you. I’m sorry.” Next to the note are already-filled-out divorce papers.
We learn all this in a dozen pages.
The heartbroken woman, deserted by a weakling scoundrel, is such a trope of popular fiction I am sometimes tempted to stop reading.
I have in the past even made fun of this plot line. But there is no denying its success in attracting readers and Denton does an exceptionally good job.
Lily must find a job and a place to live. Safe Harbor Village needs a hairstylist, which Lily was, and the job comes with an apartment above the shop. She can gather herself together, lick her wounds, heal with the help of a gang of elderly, eccentric but finally kind senior citizen ladies and it is not entirely out of the question that new love will appear.
He does, in the form of Rawlins, a nice young, handsome, divorced shrimp boat captain, Rose’s nephew.
Rawlins has a charming, vivacious five-year-old daughter, Hazel, who likes to shout “watch me!” when she jumps into the pool and is learning to do cartwheels on the lawn.
The traditionally most attractive man in the world of television and fiction is the young bachelor. Perhaps even more desirable is a widower with a happy child. He has already proven himself to be fertile and a loving father.
Fully divorced with no hang-ups is good, too.
Denton develops her cast of seniors—mostly senior ladies but especially “Coach,” a fully alert retired equities trader who has his eye on Rose. Denton also captures, I think, the feel of Bon Secour, Mobile Bay, the weather, food choices—lots of shrimp, of course—and although she is no way senior herself, Denton makes the reader believe in and become fond of her cast of vital septuagenarians.
Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors.