Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reader Interview: Barefoot by Elin Hildebrand is a Summer Story

Welcome to another reader interview.  As chance may have it another friend named Debbie has been chosen as victim, eh, I mean, guest.
Mame:  Hey Deb.  Thanks for taking some time out of your day to talk books with me.
Debbie V.:  Can you untie me now?
Mame:  Ha Ha!  You are such a kidder.  I will untie you when we are done with our little chat, hehehe…. Seriously now, what are you reading these days?
Debbie V.:  Ok, I just finished “Barefoot” by Elin Hildebrand.  It is about these 3 women, 2 of whom are sisters, who are facing a life changing situation or decision.  They decide to go to Nantucket for the summer to get away from the pressures of the everyday and figure out what to do with their lives.  Vicki is a mom of two and has cancer.  Brenda, Vicki’s sister has been fired from her professorship for unethical behavior.  She had an affair with a student even though the student was her age.  Melanie is pregnant and has discovered her husband is cheating on her.  There is a fourth supporting character.  A young man named Josh who is home from school for the summer.  The ladies hire him to be babysitter for the summer.
Mame:  This sounds like classic chick lit. You know sit on the beach or on the sofa with a box of tissues and cry.  How was the read?
DebbieV.:  I enjoyed it.  It is chick lit.  I didn’t cry but it is definitely a beach read.  She really captured Summer.  I could smell the sun tan oil and feel the sand under my feet.  I knew what that beach house looked like.  It took me back to the Jersey Shore when I was a kid.  I wanted to go over to the beach and build a sand castle.
Mame:  It sounds like she makes great word pictures and can set a scene.  How was the story though?  I mean did you enjoy the story of the women?
Debbie V.:  Yeah.  I liked the way she introduced each character with a little blurb and one story triggers another for a different character.  They’re like foils for each other.  These ladies are dealing with some heavy stuff.  Vicki is so tired of being sick but she is afraid of what will happen to her girls if she quits fighting.  Her sister, Brenda wants to be there for her but she is self centered and wallowing in her own tragedy of the demise of her career.  Then there is Melanie. She is struggling over how she might have to raise this long awaited baby without a father and the betrayal of a cheating husband.  Somehow Josh who is just working through growing up and not following his father’s footsteps becomes confidante.
Mame:  This story sounds like it could have happened anytime.  Do you think there was a reason she used Summer as the backdrop?
Debbie V.:  Oh sure.  Life happens.  Summer passing becomes a metaphor for these women’s experience.  Life passes like the seasons.  Summer feels like it will last forever but like everything else it passes away to allow Fall to come. Each woman spends time looking back on her choices and what happened to her life while she was busy.  It made me think about how hard you work for something and then when you finally give up and it happens but something else has to be sacrificed.
Mame:  What would you say was the overriding theme of the book?
Debbie V.:  At first I would say death because Vicki’s cancer is a huge deal but really I think the overriding theme is Letting Go.  Letting go of what you think your life should be.  Letting go of control and maybe you never were in control and it is ok.  And love.  It may not always be wrapped in a pretty little package but in the end the only thing that matters is love. 
Mame:  Wow.  Are you sure this is a beach read?  I think I would want to read this while PMS’ing and eat chocolate.
Debbie V.:  HaHaHa!  I loved the Summer Story aspect of it, being at the beach, playing in the sand.  Reality is serious enough and if I could go back to the beach when I was 12 that’s where I’d want to be.
Mame:  On a scale of 1-10 how fast would you buy another Elin Hildebrand novel.
DebbieV.:  You know…..hmmm…I don’t think I would buy another book by her BUT I would definitely buy another “Summer Story” again.
Mame:  Ok, I get why you would buy another Summer/beach themed book again but I am curious.  You said you liked this book then why not buy another Hildebrand novel.
Debbie V.:  She set a great scene but I never really connected to her characters.  I didn’t really care about them.  I felt like I had read the girlfriends and heartache story before and it had been done better than this.  I wanted a big moment like in “Fire Fly Lane” by Kristin Hannah or a deeper connection like in “Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd.  She just didn’t connect for me.
Mame:  So what I think you are saying is this book didn’t feel personal to the author.  She wasn’t connected to her characters and you felt that absence. 
Debbie V.:  Exactly.
Mame:  Ok, I get you and I loved both of those other books!  Well lunch hour is over and it is time to get back to work.  Thanks for the chat and I will catch you later.
Debbie V.:  You are most welcome.
Mame:  Bye
Debbie V.:  Wait!
Mame:  What?
Debbie V.:  Untie me now.
Mame:  Ooops.  Have a great day Deb!
Debbie V.:  You too.  Now get out of here you nut!