The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

A tight-knit group of 4 couples must deal with the sudden and suspicious deaths of two of their own.

The Castaways put me off at first because it reminded me of The Big Chill, a movie I’ve never liked. I’ve never really been able to put my finger on why, except I know it has something to do with Glenn Close’s smug smile throughout. Perhaps it was because although they were ostensibly reuniting because of a death, they were so solipsistic in their mourning. I found some of that in The Castaways, with motherly Andrea taking the Glenn Close role as the most annoying among them.

Greg and Tess have always been the golden couple in their group of eight, but when they go out for an anniversary sail from their home in Nantucket to nearby Martha’s Vineyard, their boat ends up capsized and both Greg and Tess are killed. The rest of the group shatters in grief, particularly Addison, who had been having a love affair with Tess, though he cannot share his particular grief with anyone. Andrea, Tess’s older sister, anoints herself the most devastated and takes immediate custody of Greg and Tess’s two children. This hurts Delilah deeply, because she knows that the kids would rather live with her–and would be better off as well. Meanwhile, their spouses follow their own journeys of grief while struggling to repair their rapidly shattering marriages.

Elin Hilderbrand is expert at limning the details of relationships, making choices for her characters that are subtle and unexpected. The Castaways‘s complex twin geographies of mourning and sexual attraction held my interest even though the only character I really connected with was Delilah. While it’s not one I am jumping up and down for, I would recommend it to someone looking for a meaty book about relationships, one with more substance than the usual beach read and with a story rich in emotions and character.

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