Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Best Of Us by Sarah Pekkanen

4 Star

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates' thirty-fifth birthday.

All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that 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 husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.

The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

Lydia - 4 Star

There is something about a once in a lifetime vacation at a private villa that includes a personal chef and pristine empty beaches with a bunch of old friends that conjures up a dreamy feelings. I couldn’t wait to get started on this one as I’ve loved every Pekkanen novel I’ve read. Escapism at its best, Pekkanen delivers a treat with The Best of Us full of wonderful characters, a twisting plot, a few secrets, and a setting I’m sure anyone would be envious of. 

This is a perfect beach read and I wish I could have devoured it on my honeymoon, but Netgalley doesn’t often allow the luxury of waiting long to read their review copies. I finished it a few weeks before the wedding and as soon as we decided to rent a private villa for our honeymoon I wanted to wait to post my review so I could briefly discuss the novel from personal experience. Pekkanen nailed it. 

The tight quarters of a house, particularly when there is strife and secrets among certain individuals in the group, was perfect. You’re relaxed, your guard is down on vacation and these characters are old friends that had kept loosely in touch over the years and were all at different stations in life. You can only imagine what comes to the surface. I was surprised and shocked several times and appreciated the unpredictability. 

I enjoyed all the characters and what they brought to the table, even though I didn’t love them all – or agree with all of their decisions. They were all so different and it was easy to grasp who was who from the first pages which I loved as sometimes this can be difficult when multiple characters are involved. I thought the interactions between them were realistic and there were some intense moments that raised the stakes for all involved and I found myself rapidly flipping pages to see what would occur.

The Best of Us didn’t carry quite the same weight for me as the more intimate stories such as Skipping a Beat did for me, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Pekkanen vaults us right into the heads of her characters so we know their motivations, fears and goals. There is something for everyone in this one. 

As a side note - If you’re searching for a vacation and think this is out of reach, just Google it. It may not be as exorbitant as you think. You don’t have to have a private chef and if you’re going with friends you can all pitch in with the cooking – and share the costs of the villa. If you don’t mind being a five minute walk to the beach or go off season, the prices are even better. You’ll have more privacy and won’t be on a resort’s timetable. You wouldn’t have to listen to the incessant poolside music and activities. Or maybe it’s just me and the hubs. We’re older now and aren’t looking for a party vacation. Or it could be that we don’t have children we might like babysitters for which resorts offer. Anyhow, just consider it if you’re interested. I’m not sure I would ever return to a resort again.

Thank you to Washington Square Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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