The Sweetest Days
A riveting and poignant portrait of marriage—lauded by New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand as “gorgeous and heartbreaking”—that explores the long union of a middle-aged couple grappling with secrets, illness, and loyalty.
Pete and Jackie Hatch have been together for decades; they were high school sweethearts, although they didn’t marry until years after an explosive incident at the end of senior year broke them apart. Now in their sixties, with their only daughter grown and facing scary news about Jackie’s health, they travel to their Cape Cod hometown for Pete’s first book signing. But a disastrous encounter with an old schoolmate brings their long marriage to the breaking point and forces them to revisit the long-ago event that changed the trajectory of their lives.
Exceptionally moving and heralded by New York Times bestselling author Mary Beth Keane as “brutally honest and true,” The Sweetest Days is an insightful portrait of a couple in it for the long haul, and of the deepest feelings, both tender and fierce, that are held in the wake of an enduring marriage.
In Hough's evocative if uneven domestic tragedy (after Little Bighorn), a former high school football star turned reporter and speechwriter returns to his Cape Cod hometown to give a reading from his first novel. Pete Hatch's wife, Jackie, who has been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, accompanies him. Pete and Jackie were high school sweethearts whose first stab at romance ended with Pete's mysterious disappearance following his participation with SNCC in a boycott of a white-owned grocery store in the Jim Crow South, which Jackie refused to join because of her father's pro-segregation views. Hough weaves back and forth between the present-day visit on the Cape during which Pete and Jackie drink amply and visit her father and the events of the past, leading to the reveal of why Pete was sent abroad as well as his eventual, coincidental reunion with Jackie in Boston. Everything is brought out in the open at the bookstore where Pete gives the reading. While the writing is spare and seamless, the flashbacks can feel overwhelming. Additionally, some readers may balk at some of Pete's narration, such as "Her breasts would have been the pride of any woman her age." Hough is without doubt a proficient craftsman, but this one misses the mark.