When Vicki Stowe arrives in Nantucket for a summer holiday with her two young sons, her best friend Melanie and her sister Brenda, all three women are running from trouble.
Brenda has just lost her prestigious job in scandalous circumstances; Vicki has been diagnosed with cancer and is facing months of treatment; Melanie, who has been struggling for years to have a baby, has just discovered that she is pregnant - and that her husband is having an affair.
The women soon find life in a cramped cottage with only one bathroom not quite the idyll they imagined. Salvation comes in the form of Josh, who quickly becomes part of the chaotic household, helping the women but also dividing them as their feelings for him start to grow beyond friendship . . .
Hilderbrand's sixth novel heaps on the trauma as a substitute for realistic connection in this heady mix of beach house, cancer, affair and mom lit. Connecticut housewife Vicki, diagnosed with lung cancer, has packed up her two kids for a chemo-commuting summer at the family's Nantucket cabin; sister Brenda, a newly minted high-powered assistant professor, has just been fired for having an affair with one of her students; Vicki's best friend, Melanie, newly pregnant, has discovered her husband is cheating. The three hit the tarmac of the tiny island airport, where they run into home-for-the-summer Middlebury senior Josh Flynn, who has a summer job there that he hates. Hardened clich Brenda pines for her stereotypically weathered Australian lover. Melanie is a chronic complainer until she romances grim aspiring writer Josh, whom she has run into again and brought on as the house babysitter. (Josh thinks his old girlfriend should "locate her center" and "operate from a place of security.") Of the three women, only the suffering, stubborn Vicki, who keeps a list of "Things That No Longer Mattered" and cries when she can't seduce her visiting husband, draws readerly sympathy. There are some tender moments in Hilderbrand's latest beacher, but others are as irritating as sand in your swimsuit.