Title: Summer Secrets by Jane Green
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 319 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
With Summer Secrets Jane Green has reached an even deeper level of emotion that will stay with you long after you turn the last page…
Living in London in her twenties, Cat had it all–a great job and wonderful friends. But with the good came the bad–a party every night, wreaking havoc, and blackouts. When she discovers the father she never knew she had, living in Nantucket, it sends her into a spiral, costing her the new family she had desperately craved. The drinking had always been a constant evil in Cat’s life. Now in her late thirties, sober, divorced from the love of her life, and trying to make up for lost time with her teenage daughter, she’s ready to make amends to those she has hurt. But facing the past and the unthinkable act she committed one summer night could change the course of her life forever.
Summer Secrets by Jane Green is an emotionally compelling and heartrending novel about one woman’s battle to get sober.
Catherine “Cat” Coombs love affair with alcohol began when she was a teenager and did not end until she hit rock bottom in her forties. The years in between were a blur of hangovers, blackouts, bad parenting and horrendous drunken decisions. In her twenties, Cat makes her first real attempt at sobriety after meeting Jason Halliwell, another recovering alcoholic, but unfortunately, she is more interested in a romantic relationship with Jason than sobriety. When her mother reveals shocking information about her father, Cat makes a trip to Nantucket to meet her family and her journey ends rather abruptly when she commits a spectacular (and unforgivable) betrayal. After this latest shameful fall from grace, Cat spends several years sobering up only to fall off the wagon again and again. Fast forward to her forties when she finally hits rock bottom after her husband divorces her and wins custody of their thirteen year daughter, Annie, and she finally sobers up for the right reason: herself. She has been doing the heavy lifting necessary to maintain her sobriety when Cat, at long last, must make amends to the two people she has been avoiding: her sisters.
Cat is, in so many ways, a typical addict. She lies to herself, her friends and her family about her drinking. She is marginally aware that she drinks more than her friends and she is fully convinced she can quit drinking anytime she wants. And she does. But only long enough to “prove” to herself and others that she is firmly in control of her drinking. However, as anyone who has ever been touch by addiction knows, Cat is an alcoholic (albeit a functioning one) and she is nowhere close to being in control of her drinking.
When Cat is in her late twenties, as she sees her friends moving on from partying as they settle down, marry and have children, she knows she is being left behind, but she is powerless to move forward. After meeting Jason, she makes her first real attempt at gaining sobriety, but she is only going through the motions of going to meetings with him. She does cut back on her drinking, but she does not give it up completely, nor does she really believe what she hears at AA meetings.
Despite Jason’s warnings not to travel to Nantucket until she is further along in the program, Cat is convinced she can handle meeting her father and half-sisters without ruining the visit with her drunken antics. However, once she arrives, she easily convinces herself that she can continue socially drinking with the rest of her family and initially, she manages to limit how much she drinks. But in actuality, Cat is a disaster in waiting and one night, she blacks out and when she wakes up the next morning, her life begins a downward spiral that does not end until her divorce several years later.
It is very easy to feel all of the raw emotion that Cat experiences and her shame and disgust at her behavior practically leaps off the pages. Equally apparent is Cat’s loneliness and despair over her failed marriage but at this point in her recovery, she is unflinchingly honest that her drinking is to blame for her divorce. Her unrelenting pain over the loss of her husband is utterly heartbreaking as is her persistent hope that he will give her another chance. This sorrow is perfectly balanced by the surprising welcome and forgiveness Cat finds in Nantucket but her reconciliation with her sisters is marred by lies and a distressing act of revenge.
With Summer Secrets, Jane Green presents an remarkably honest portrait of addiction. The devastating effects alcoholism are realistically presented in such a way that it is easy to empathize with Cat and her long journey to sobriety. Although it is not a light-hearted read, Summer Secrets is a riveting novel of hope and redemption and it is one that I highly recommend.