Title: The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
An all-expense paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage.
Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to re-evaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.
Sarah Pekkanen’s The Best of Us is a marvelous novel about friendship. But it is also a journey of self-discovery as each of the women comes to terms with the various challenges facing them as they enjoy a decadent week long vacation in Jamaica.
Tina, Allie, Savannah and Dwight were best friends in college. Tina is now married to Gio and is a stay at home mom to their four young children. Allie is married to Ryan and now their two kids are older, she is working part time as a social worker. Savannah is a real estate agent and unbeknownst to her friends, she and her husband Gary are separated and on the verge of divorce. Dwight is a socially awkward millionaire and it is his wife Pauline who has arranged the extravagant celebration for his thirty-fifth birthday.
As they embark on their trip, each of the women is at a crisis point in their lives. Tina loves her four children, but Gio’s long hours leave her as the kids’ primary caregiver and she is exhausted emotionally and physically from the demands of motherhood. Allie has learned devastating information about her birth father that leaves her reeling. Savannah is hoping the trip will take her mind off her conflicted feelings about Gary’s infidelity and their impending divorce. Pauline is faltering under the weight of the secrets she is keeping from Dwight.
All of the characters in The Best of Us are well-developed and multi-faceted. Tina and Allie are the most realistic and easy to relate while Savannah and Pauline come across as a little superficial. But there are hidden depths to each of these women, and their reactions to the unfolding drama are not as predictable as one would think. I wavered between liking and disliking each of the women throughout the story, and by the end of the novel, my opinions of each of them had dramatically altered from my first impressions.
The lavish party and lush tropical location counteract the more serious aspects of the storyline. Spirits are high with the liquor flowing freely and there is much laughter as everyone begins to relax and enjoy themselves. There are many light-hearted moments as everyone partakes in luscious meals and explores their idyllic surroundings.
The plot is unpredictable and Sarah Pekkanen keeps the reader off balance with some very surprising twists and turns. As the story progresses, the sense of camaraderie is occasionally marred by squabbles and jealousy. Loyalties shift as perceptions change due to some of the events that occur between the various characters.
But what makes The Best of Us such an outstanding read is the growth of the characters. They each gain new insight not only about themselves, but one another as well. The bonds of friendship are challenged but will emerge stronger than ever in the wake of unexpected revelations. An emotionally satisfying and compelling novel that I highly recommend.