Elin Hilderbrand’s Summer of ’69 is an excellent beach read meets historical fiction novel and I’m here for it!
Why I read this book:
Basically anything that Elin Hilderbrand writes goes directly to my TBR list, and Summer of ’69 was no exception. It came out in 2019 and I bought it as soon as I saw it in paperback. My sister-in-law refers to Agatha Christy novels as junk food: they might not be super meaty, heavy, or thought provoking, but she flies through them and they always leave her satisfied. That’s how I feel about Elin Hilderbrand. She is my junk food author!
What is Summer of ’69 about?
In perfect Elin Hilderbrand (yes, she is always first and last name with me) fashion, this story features one pretty normal family with plenty of quirks and mess and tells a story about their summer. It includes several members of their extended family as well as a few sweet friends and a couple villains. But (of course you know this if you’ve ever read any other Elin Hilderband novels) the setting is just as big of a character as any: Nantucket.
Summer of ’69 picks up in the spring of that year when the Levin family’s only son, Tiger, receives his draft notice for Vietnam. They all realize this summer will be unlike any they’ve had before.
His oldest sister, Blaire, is newly married and pregnant with twins. She’s quickly finding out that married life, stuck in Boston, away from her family is not where she wants to be.
Middle sister, Kirby, is the token hippie. She has marched with Dr King and (not surprisingly) decided to opt for a summer in Martha’s Vineyard, instead of Nantucket with her family.
Youngest sister, Jessie, while technically a half sister, is in the throws of her early teens where a whole summer away could totally jeopardize her standing with her friends. She feels alone and stuck on the island until she finds an unexpected friend. She quickly learns she may not be the little girl she once was.
The kids’ mother, Kate, has enough problems of her own and often times gives in to them instead of remembering that she is actually still a wife and mother (and daughter) and other people need her to get her act together. Which, she realizes and tries to do a couple times, but always seems to end up right back where she started.
What I loved:
There’s drama and suspense, action, heartbreak, and love. You know, everything I’ve come to expect from a Elin Hilderbrand novel. This is also her first venture into the historical fiction genre. I love love loved all the events she brought into the storyline: the Vietnam war, anti-war protests, Woodstock, Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, Dr. King, landing a man on the moon…there’s so much she packs in! I love the way she incorporated all those elements into the character’s lives without making it seem forced or fake. Well done!
What I didn’t:
There are a couple interactions between some of the characters that I wish would have gone differently. At one point, Jessie has a run-in that I don’t understand why the outcome wasn’t written more responsibly. There’s also a situation with a couple supporting characters’ relationship that just sort of disappears and it leaves a hole in their story where I wanted more closure.
There’s also no mention of The Chicken Box, so I must ask myself… Was this really set on Nantucket if no one went to The Chicken Box???
My rating for Summer of’69:
I loved the story and loved that the author stepped outside her typical setting, but kept true to her signature storytelling style. Elin Hilderbrand’s novels are never ones I gift to others or feel they deem a 5 star rating, but I will read every single one I can get my hands on because, you know, junk food. Summer of ’69 gets a solid 3 stars from me!
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