Expected publication: June 7th 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.
Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.
This is classic McKinnon in a niche that she's already cornered: a beautiful, summery tale about evaluating your life choices, and finding the strength to do what is best for you.
Read on for my thoughts!
Things that worked:
I think that every twenty-something hits a point in there life when they're unsure of what they're doing is what they're meant to be doing, and McKinnon brilliantly captures that feeling of restlessness and uncertainty in the immensely likable Maggie.
She's theoretically happy with her life - Maggie has a decent job with the usual challenges; a dashing boyfriend, and good friends. But McKinnon does a nice job of showing that there's a difference between being materialistically and emotionally satisfied, and how it's losing her job and visiting home that drives Maggie toward realizing just what she emotionally needs and who she can find it with.
Outside of Maggie, McKinnon's secondary characters are beautifully sketched out, as usual. Maggie has loyal friends and acquaintances, but in the already-classic McKinnon fashion, these are also characters with personality quirks and flaws of their own. Many of them use their own flawed moments to help guide Maggie in moments of indecision, and I absolutely love McKinnon for writing such realistic friendships.
One of my litmus tests for a good contemporary novel, is whether the author can make the ordinary sound thrilling. (Because let's face it: why would we want to read a boring novel about things we already experience day-to-day?)
McKinnon succeeds in spades with Mystic Summer, with the drama of Maggie's job, her issues with her boyfriend, and even the usual panic that come up with an impending wedding, all of which help to drive the narrative of the story forward.
One of the best driving forces of Mystic Summer are the friendships that Maggie brings to the table.
What's especially notable about McKinnon's plotting, is her decision to have secondary characters share their own mistakes in similar experiences, basically reminding Maggie that while her problems may feel stressful and unique, it's nothing that hasn't been experienced by others before. That's so very true to life, and I loved the fact that Maggie had such a supportive network.
On the darker issues
McKinnon goes dark at times - which isn't surprising. However, I especially appreciated how she chose to handle a broken relationship in the book, making it a point not to demonize an absentee parent, but to really emphasize just how sometimes, there are things that people are just not ready for - including being a parent.
Also thought McKinnon did a nice job of incorporating health issues into the book, without it becoming melodramatic.
While I had some specific quibbles with the Cameron/Maggie relationship - more on this later - I do think that McKinnon writes strong relationships overall.
She does a nice job of showing just how even the most perfect relationships may not necessarily work out at times, and also reminds how it's sometimes healthy to not be in a relationship if the relationship causes more problems than not. There's a particularly moving scene where a person who clearly shouldn't be in a relationship encounters someone, and admits admits both her failings, but also her strengths, as she continues to walk away.
I always know that I'll get a well-rounded family in McKinnon's books, and that's especially true here. Loved the truths about Maggie's family, including her tacit recognition that even if she didn't grow up with a family with the most money, she grew up with one that had love.
And it's that love that allows her family to listen, empathize and even guide when Maggie struggles, helping her to get to know the best and truest parts of herself.
While I wasn't necessarily a fan of the romantic aspects of the ending, I did like Maggie's determination to be true to herself, as she pursues her next adventure. It's a reminder that just because one door closes, human nature and
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
While I can logically understand just why circumstance and nostalgia would push them together, I'm not entirely sure I personally saw enough in the current foundations of that relationship that would having it working out for the long run. In many ways, it really did feel like Maggie was attracted to Cameron, because he was in a vulnerable situation and represented something different than her other relationship.
However, this is just my personal opinion, and I'd love to hear what you think!
This is not only a great summer read, but it's a great fiction read, full stop. McKinnon works her magic transporting readers to Mystic, and to a world where mistakes are made, but only help us delve into the journey of just who we are truly meant to be.
Highly recommend for fans of Sophie Kinsella, and also for fans of Emily Giffin.