Title: Golden Girl
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Publication Information: Little, Brown and Company. 2021. 384 pages.
ISBN: 0316420085 / 978-0316420082
Opening Sentence: "She receives a message from the front office: a new soul is about to join them, and this soul has been assigned to Martha."
Favorite Quote: "Nothing in this world feels as good as hope."
In the opening pages of this book, Vivi Howe dies in a hit and run accident. She leaves behind three children, an ex-husband, an upcoming book, and the secrets of a lifetime. A sudden death brings to light all the Things Left unresolved. Things we think we are going to have time for. Things we think we can get to later. Except that the later is not to be. It also brings to light what priorities were and perhaps what they should have been.
When one of the things left undone is a will, it brings to bear so many more issues. There is a career, wealth, a house, children, alimony for the ex-husband, royalties on books, but no will. I find that challenging to follow, but perhaps. It's a niggling point, but one that can be overlooked in the story.
The plot of this book is itself contrived. Vivi dies, but there is a place in the beyond. She has an assigned guardian. She has a room from which she can watch what happens among the living. Beyond that, she has three "nudges." That's kind of like three wishes. She has the ability, not to completely change things but to "nudge" someone or something in the direction she chooses. She cannot, however, nudge the outcome of that. Where will she use the nudges?
The beautiful Nantucket summer setting brings forth the idea of a Summer Beach read. This book avails itself of that setting but then turns from the summer beach read into an attempt to tackle issues plucked from the headlines. Left among the living are Vivi's three children, her children's father, and someone from Vivi's past. Among the living is also the investigation of the culprit behind the hit and run. First and foremost, the chief suspect in the hit and run is a person of color - perhaps the only person of color on Nantucket. Then, there is the daughter who is propositioned at the restaurant at which she works. Is she believed? Is she not believed? There are the wealthy and the not. There are the teenagers with secrets and angst of their own. It's a quick read that tries to do a bit too much.
As you might expect in an Elin Hilderbrand book, by the end, resolutions are reached. Perhaps, most importantly, the children (some of whom are adults) find a way to cope with the loss of their mother. "We honor Mom by offering forgiveness. You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things - but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they're human."
While not quite a lighthearted summer beach read, the book is a quick, entertaining while it lasts, and leaves the lesson of forgiveness which is always important to remember.