The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin's Press, 2016)
Having just passed the winter solstice, dreams of summer, warm beaches, suntan lotion, and the shussh of the ocean lapping the shore are very much on the minds of beach lovers. It is only five months until Memorial Day kicks off the summer season. If you are looking for a novel to titillate your summer musings, Mary Kay Andrews' The Weekenders might fit that need and help you to embrace the summer sun as you sit in front of a roaring fireplace.
Set on Belle Isle, North Carolina, lots of folks migrate by ferry to the island during the summer months, hence the book's title Weekenders. Riley Griggs, however, is part of a dynasty that has lived on the island and have been key players in its development for generations. As Riley, who is traveling with her twelve year old daughter, Maggy, is waiting for her estranged husband. Wendell. to arrive for the Memorial Day festivities, Riley is handed divorce papers by a process server, papers which greatly change her life and open her eyes as to the depth of her husband's deception, not only to her but to her entire family who have fallen prey to his manipulations.
When Wendell doesn't show up on the island that evening, Riley is perplexed. In distress she thinks, “Wendell. This was all Wendell. He hadn't made the ferry today because he'd never intended to make it. Every promise he's made her, every tearful declaration of his love for his family ---all lies. He'd taken the coward's way out, and now he was having her served with divorce papers---” (p.35) But as the story unfolds, Wendell's absence turns out to be something much darker and disturbing, leaving Riley to have to pick up the threads of her shredded life and begin anew.
The characters who surround Riley make for interesting challenges as Riley has to figure out her new life as a single Mom. Maggy, furious at Riley for tossing aside her father, has been diagnosed recently with juvenile diabetes. The complication of making sure that Maggy understands the importance of checking her blood sugar regularly and administering insulin, weighs heavily on Riley, who is dealing with a plethora of emotional twists. As an adolescent confounded by both bodily and familial changes in her life, Maggy morphs from the sweet child she once was into an angry and defiant pre-teen, who often gives Riley serious cause for concern. Although she is frequently belligerent and rude to her mother and grandmother, Evelyn, Riley tries to look at the world through her daughter's perspective and refrains from coming down on Maggy too hard when she often deserves discipline. While some readers might find Maggy's behavior difficult to accept, she is representative of what many teens growing up in today's complex world of social media, bullying, and broken homes.
As the story unfolds, Riley learns that Wendell has not only been unfaithful to her as a husband, he has run through every dime of her lucrative inheritance, lost their beautiful beach home on Belle Isle, and dragged her family into his ruinous schemes. Riley is bombarded on all sides as she tries to rebuild her life. Once known as a popular television news celebrity, at the age of 42, the media opportunities have passed her by and she must search for a new career in order to support her child and herself.
Of course, a good beach read includes a romantic interlude, and in Weekenders, Riley finds herself attracted to Nate Milas, an old flame from her college days. Nate's parents were also Belle Isle fixtures; his father was the captain of the local ferry, and his mother ran the town's diner. Nate has returned recently to Belle Isle himself, after making a fortune in the dot com industry in California. As in most romance novels, Riley and Nate face many obstacles to rekindling their relationship, most of which are internal issues that Riley must resolve.
Although the prose is on the heavy side (the novel could have been pared down a bit), Mary Kay Andrews is a popular N.Y Times Best Selling novelist, who has penned several popular mystery series and other novels set in the South. Though flawed, The Weekenders, does hold the reader's interest and is a good read.