Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy’s closest friends for what will be revealed.
In a small way, the couples on this island remind me of a high school clique that end up dating all of the other people in the clique resulting in a shared history. It’s only because their relationships are so intertwined and not because of immature behavior.
Don’t be fooled by the cover like I was, into thinking this would be a light summer read. The title refers to the nickname the group give themselves before embarking on their first group trip. There are no chapters and most of the book contains the thoughts and stories of the best friends. The thoughts after the MacAvoy’s deaths aren’t always pleasant and there is the requisite could-haves, should-haves and would-haves. There is a bit of a mystery about the boat accident and that keeps popping up. I always like to say that no one really knows what goes on in a marriage except for the people involved and Hilderbrand’s novel is confirmation.
Hilderbrand is a student of people. As a resident of Nantucket herself, she understands the nuanced differences between residents and tourists. The observations made by the characters are interesting. They are self-aware of how they seem to the other Castaways. Ed Kapenash, the Police Chief, even categorizes himself and a few of The Castaways into two groups – cops and robbers. It’s safe to say Hilderbrand spent a lot of time with the characters to get to know their backstories. There are parallels between the characters in the book (for example, Phoebe Wheeler is a twin and the MacAvoys have twin children) that can account for their closeness as friends. Without giving too much away, the character of Phoebe Wheeler had the most dramatic journey but stayed true to herself.
About Elin Hilderbrand
Elin Hilderbrand lives on Nantucket with her husband and their three young children. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and traveled extensively before settling on Nantucket, which has been the setting for her five previous novels. Hilderbrand is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the graduate fiction workshop at the University of Iowa.