Review: 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

by Heather Caliendo
book review 28 summers - book club chat

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand is a decent novel with a great setting. 

Despite the fact this is her 25th novel, this is actually the first Elin Hilderbrand book I’ve read! I really loved the Nantucket setting and you really feel like you’re right there with the characters. I would love to be at the beach right now so it definitely was a nice escapism summer read. I did think the story was a bit long at 433 pages. It also had a lot of storylines going on that I thought could have been reduced a bit. 

The synopsis 

When Mallory Blessing’s son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he’s not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It’s the late spring of 2020 and Jake’s wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.

There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?

Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother’s bachelor party. Cooper’s friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere — through marriage, children, and Ursula’s stratospheric political rise — until Mallory learns she’s dying.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love.

Affair storylines

I have to say that affair storylines are very tricky and it’s typically hard to get the audience on their side. Back in the day, it seemed every single one of Emily Giffin’s novels involved an affair and it usually felt a little icky—especially Something Borrowed. I think Elin handled it better than those older novels but I still wasn’t on board with it completely. I just kept thinking, why don’t Mallory and Jake just get together? Especially in the beginning, they had an opportunity. Honestly, that just kept running through my head and I didn’t feel the excuses were enough (Jake’s been with Ursula forever; Mallory will never leave Nantucket). 

Mallory is good overall but some of her decision-making is very cringe, which might be the point. Jake is nice but flawed. It kind of felt like Jake got to have it all—successful wife with a side piece pinning for him in Nantucket. And Mallory, geez, this relationship ruined any chances of her finding someone else. I just wanted more from their relationship for this to make sense—the summers felt repetitive and not in a cute way.

I guess their relationship was meant to be one-and-done every year kind of thing. Maybe the magic would have worn off if they would have been together longer. We just don’t know because they never gave it a try. 

Storylines galore 

I really do like Elin’s writing. I just though there were a bit too many storylines going on in this one. You have the main affair story, which sometimes takes a backseat to the other characters. We follow Ursula’s career trajectory, which to be honest, I wasn’t that engaged with her character. I really don’t understand why Ursula and Jake are together. The author tries to make a loose tie about why but I didn’t buy it. I will say, I have seen people complain about the politics but that didn’t bother me but it did feel random at times.

We also follow Mallory’s brother Cooper unsuccessful love life. I just didn’t really care about Cooper. Then you throw in some parent dynamics and Mallory’s odd best friend relationship. This novel does cover almost 30 years so that’s a lot to pack in but I found my interest losing a bit when it deviated from the main storyline. 

In 28 Summers, the setting is the star, but do feel there are a lot of issues. However, if you’re looking for a story that has a picture perfect setting, you’ll like this one. For book clubs, check out my questions here

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