Ellie, Leslie, and Madison met at the DMV in New York City on their shared 21st birthday. Now they are turning 40. They haven't seen each other since they bonded that day. Now Ellie, a famous author, has invited the other two women to a cabin in Maine to share their 40th birthday weekend. The bond is still there and the other two accept.
When they see each other they all know their lives did not fulfill the promises each had seen 20 years earlier. Leslie, the prospective dancer, married the boy next door and has become a non-person in her home with her husband and teen son and daughter. Madison, the prospective model, went back to her small town and married the football hero who needed a nurse. Ellie, the prospective artist, instead married a selfish man, started writing to escape her life when he was conspicuously absent, then lost everything to him in the divorce settlement. They share their stories their first night together.
When they go shopping in town the next day, they are given business cards to meet Madame Zola. When they seek out the woman they believe to be a fortune teller, they instead are given a chance to relive any three weeks of their lives. This is their chance to see what would have happened if they had done something different. This may be their chance to change their lives.
Jude Deveraux is recognized as a romance author. The Summerhouse is not a traditional romance novel. Instead it is an insightful look at how women overlook their own self worth and let the men they believe they love take them over. Ellie has fought with depression since her divorce. Madison has never believed in herself because she never was able to go to college, marrying a wheelchair bound man who never grows up instead. Leslie has subjecated herself to her family. The rumors around town are that her husband is having an affair with his secretary. She has always been "nice" and avoided all confrontations. Perhaps if she ignores it long enough, the affair will go away.
The self destructive thoughts of these women are a continuous underlying theme of this book. It's not a depressing book, but it made me think. I have fought with many of the emotions and circumstances these women have. Often when I hear these types of stories I wonder how the woman can let that happen to her. But these women show how insiduous loss of self worth is and how easy it is to forget yourself. It's one thing to be on the outside looking in. I know it's another to be involved in that type of situation and not realizing what is happening until looking back on it much later.
This is a charming, hopeful book. Almost everyone wishes they could go back and change something in their lives. Ellie, Leslie, and Madison have that chance. They also have the chance to accept the changes if they want. Each woman's decision shows her personality and her hidden strength. The book made me examine my inner self. But it also gave me a relaxing, fun read.
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