Bantam, Aug 2004, 7.50, 464 pp.
In 1976 Hubbard's Point, Connecticut, three teenage girls swear to be friends forever as the “Beach Girls” though their temperament differs. Stevie Moore is a sensitive artist; Maddie Kilvert is the serious one; Emma Lincoln is the sassy member of the trio. Time, distance, and events drift Stevie from the others, but Maddie and Emma become in-laws when the latter married former's brother Jack.
In 2003 Emma is dead while Jack raises their preadolescent daughter Nell by himself though his family helps when they can. Because of all the memories of his wife in Atlanta, Jack relocates to Boston, but is spending the summer with Nell in Hubbard's Point as his daughter wants to learn everything about her beloved mom.
Nell searches for the reclusive Stevie, a renowned children's book author. When they meet, the child's innocence and enthusiasm touches the hermit and begins bringing the Beach Girl out of her shell. Soon Nell tries matchmaking her dad with Stevie, but he still mourns his loss and she has failed at relationships making the child's effort monumental.
This angst-laden second chance at love (and living) tale contains a strong cast and a unique engaging story line. For much of the novel, Nell's need to reach back to her deceased mom's past is the focus while the adult love is handled quite deftly by simmering it slowly to percolate as neither Stevie nor Jack is truly ready for a relationship when they first re-meet. Though perhaps some readers will feel Nell is too precocious, BEACH GIRLS is a well done character study that concentrates on what individuals do to survive traumas, tragedies, and failures.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner