Instant New York Times Bestseller
Longlisted for Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
2020 New England Society Book Award Winner for Fiction
“The Guest Book is monumental in a way that few novels dare attempt.” —The Washington Post
The thought-provoking new novel by New York Times bestselling author Sarah Blake
An exquisitely written, poignant family saga that illuminates the great divide, the gulf that separates the rich and poor, black and white, Protestant and Jew. Spanning three generations, The Guest Book deftly examines the life and legacy of one unforgettable family as they navigate the evolving social and political landscape from Crockett’s Island, their family retreat off the coast of Maine. Blake masterfully lays bare the memories and mistakes each generation makes while coming to terms with what it means to inherit the past.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In Sarah Blake’s ambitious and occasionally devastating novel, a fancy summer house turns into a fraught inheritance as three generations of blue bloods grapple with their role in shaping America’s uglier moments. By shifting perspectives among various family members, The Guest Book builds up suspense while unpacking issues of race, gender, and privilege. But the story is at its most electric when it dives into the past. That’s because Blake not only reveals terrible secrets that reverberate into the future, but also advances the haunting idea that our closest of kin often remain a total mystery to us.
Blake (The Postmistress) tells the history of the privileged Milton family from 1935 to present day in this powerful family saga. In 1935 New York, Kitty Milton, wife of Ogden, is enjoying the life of a New York society wife with her three children five-year-old Neddy, three-year-old Moss, and one-year-old Joan when Neddy dies in an accident. To help his wife heal, Ogden buys Crockett's Island off the coast of Maine, and through the decades, the island becomes the Miltons' summer refuge. In 1959, Moss is working in his father's investment bank and invites his Jewish friend Len Levy, a fellow employee at the firm, and Reg Pauling, a black man and friend of Moss and Len, to visit the island. Len and Joan have been secretly dating, but Len isn't certain if Joan will acknowledge their relationship in front of her family. The tensions of Len and Reg's visit result in an argument that brings family secrets to light and ends in drama that will haunt those present for years to come. And in the present-day, as Milton family members must decide what to do with their island inheritance, they discover some answers to their family's past. Blake has a particular knack for dialogue; she knows exactly how to reveal the hidden depths of the characters both through what is said and what is unsaid. The result is potent and mesmerizing.
Great story. Interesting and complex characters. Beautiful prose and descriptions. Insightful about the human condition. So why four stars instead of five? At points, the beautiful descriptions became tedious because there were too many of them. Not every little thing is worthy of a detailed description. But overall worth reading.
Compelling with sublime nuance
This book was far from what I first expected, and delivered a rich tapestry of intertwined historical and contemporary narratives. It was most enjoyable in parallel ways - the exquisite writing and entertainment value, coupled with social commentary and societal explorations. The second half of the book I could not help but read I’m a matter of hours!
The Guest Book
A story about race and family and privilege that never bangs you over the head. The prose walks along in an ordinary way until, suddenly, there is a paragraph or a sentence of incredible beauty that you have to go back and reread, and visualize. I was mesmerized by the complexity of the Milton’s history and by the power of the unsaid to control the destinies of so many people.