ISBN 10: 0739486888 / ISBN 13: 9780739486887
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Synopsis:
Mitchard's 'Still Summer' plunges into terror

By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY

Secure your life preserver. Tie yourself to the mast. It's late August, but it's still summer, and Jacquelyn Mitchard is taking you on a thrill ride you won't forget.

Mitchard made her mark in the literary world in 1996 when TheDeep End of the Ocean was chosen as the first pick for Oprah Winfrey's now-legendary book club. Since then, she has written six other novels, but none matches the suspenseful pitch of Still Summer.

It's a tale of terror on the high seas, but this is no Pirates of the Caribbean wannabe.

Readers know something terrible is going to happen, but Mitchard ratchets up the suspense by allowing her story to unfold at a leisurely pace. She painstakingly fleshes out her characters, because as readers will discover, their temperaments and personalities are as crucial to the story as the mounting disasters.

Tracy Kyle, Holly Solvig and Olivia Montefalco, lifelong friends in their early 40s, charter a yacht and two-man crew for a sailing vacation that will take them from St. Thomas to Grenada.

The trip starts out as an innocent adventure in paradise until two accidents in quick succession strand the women without their crew. What else can go wrong? In a word, everything. The engine conks out, the sails are torn, lack of electricity spoils their food and limits their drinking water - and then there's the injury to Holly's leg.

Nature's fury, murderous drug dealers and, possibly most deadly of all, their own frailties and secrets are added to the list.

Readers will wring their hands with frustration, weep with sadness and second-guess the choices these women make. But since characters must do the bidding of the authors who create them, we can only sit back - or sit on the edge of our seats - and let Mitchard's terror-filled tale wash over us.

Review: Guest Reviewer: Jodi Picoult
From the provocative and gut-wrenching The Pact, to the brilliant genre-bending The Tenth Circle, to Nineteen Minutes, her most recent novel about a high-school shooting, Jodi Picoult's riveting novels center on family and relationships, and bring to light questions and issues that remain with a reader long after the last page is turned.

In one of my novels, I describe life as what happens when the what-if's don't. In Jacquelyn Mitchard's book, Still Summer, we lucky readers get tumbled into a world where extraordinary things happen to ordinary women; where the what-if's don't only become a reality, but a nightmare that truly puts into perspective what's important in life, and who we truly are.

Mitchard has always excelled at capturing the details of a fictional character with such a finely drawn hand that it's easy to believe you know the people who inhabit her books--that you may have had coffee with them, or passed them on the street. Sometimes her characters are so real to me I have to close the book to cry; or I find myself yelling at them out loud. The ladies of Still Summer--a band of high-school friends who have long since grown up--base their connection to each other on the past, when they were tough-talking Catholic schoolgirls called the Godmothers. But where Tracy, Holly, and Janis went on to marry and live quiet suburban lives, Olivia became an Italian countess, living the kind of life the others could only dream about. Reunited for a Caribbean sailing voyage after Olivia's husband's death, we watch the women come to terms with the fact that our memories of the past are often colored by nostalgia; that friends who fit together seamlessly years ago might, with the passing of time, find it harder to align.

The book begins in familiar territory--women whose lives that are peppered with recalcitrant kids, clueless husbands, the double-handed shuffle of home and career. At the last minute, Janis begs out of the trip to tend to an ailing husband--leaving Tracy's daughter, Cammie, to take her place--in spite of the fact that the relationship between mother and daughter is rocky and cavernous. And then, just as suddenly as a rogue wind, the book takes a shocking turn--leaving these women in a crisis situation that leaves them not only fighting for their lives, but revising their own understanding of friendship, family, and loyalty.

What is it about a Mitchard novel that rises so far above others? The realism, the grace of the characters who people it, and the heartbreaking truths that sneak up on a reader when we least expect it. Still Summer reminds us that sometimes it takes a tragedy to learn what's beautiful about ordinary life; that sometimes we have to travel great distances to figure out how we define "home"; and perhaps most importantly, that we do not know anyone as well as we think--not our daughters, not our friends, and not even ourselves. --Jodi Picoult


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Jacquelyn Mitchard
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