So, today was a pretty darn good day. I read a book!! And not just a sample. A full length novel!!! And I read it in less than 24 hours!!! Huzzah!
I couldn't help it, though. I was powerless against the compulsion of the book. (The power of the book compels you. The power of the book compels you.)
I had just received The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski Friday night. I had participated in the cover reveal and was offered the chance to read a review copy. I eagerly jumped at the chance! It was a Net Galley offering, but what the heck.
Now, I have nothing at all against Net Galley. In fact, I love the service that Net Galley provides. However, in order to be granted a review copy, one must be worthy. One must have the stats to be seen as worthy, which, let's be honest, I do not have. It's my own fault really and has a lot to do with the amount of time and energy I put into my job. Every request I have submitted has been denied with the exception of the BEA Buzz Books from 2014. Of course, I never read the samples, and so never posted a review. Again, my fault.
Anyway, I was sent a link and was told my name was submitted for approval. When I clicked on the link, lo and behold, I was able to download the book. Oh, frabjous day! I was so excited!!
I started reading yesterday morning and finished this morning. Although I had to put the book down for various reasons throughout the day, I could not wait to get back to the story. And I'll tell you why.
This, for me, was a very personal story. It resonated with me unlike any book I've read of late. While on one level, it is a contemporary beach themed romance, on another level it deals with the rebuilding of lives and communities in the wake of devastation of epic proportions. It was that more than anything that really hit home.
I grew up a Jersey girl. I spent my youth hanging out at the boardwalk in Asbury Park. I frequented beaches from Sandy Hook down to Belmar, but Asbury Park was where I spent most of my time. I lived in the next town over just a couple of miles from the beach. It was home. I played at those arcades. I saw concerts at the Convention Hall and at the Palace. I hung out at the Stone Pony. I've been by Madame Marie's a bajillion times. I even worked on the boardwalk at a candy store for a short while over one summer. Hated it. After I graduated college and worked for a couple years, I was offered a manager position. My bosses were expanding their business. It was a mall art gallery, but I jumped at the opportunity and headed north. I lived half my life at the shore and I can tell you, you can take the girl away from the shore, but you can't take the shore out of the girl.
I was devastated when Sandy hit. We had a friend staying from Scotland and all he wanted to do was go to the city. I couldn't work. We had no power for a week. Hubby had to go to work, though. Power generators I assume, so me and Lee sat on the couch eating Halloween candy in the dark most of the time. It was Thanksgiving when I finally saw what the storm wrought.
My family still lives at the shore, but before we could stop at my mom's, I had to see first hand. We were in my Mini. Stick shift. I was driving. I started at Asbury Park and drove up to the Atlantic Highlands and what I saw was just wreckage. Some towns weren't hit too bad, some were torn apart. The beaches were practically erased. I saw empty lots with refuse piled in a mountain three stories tall. And this is almost a month after the storm. It broke my heart and I knew it would never be the same.
While I no longer live near the ocean, it is always with me. The wounds are healing, people are putting their lives back together, communities rally, but this was a storm that has changed the profile of the Jersey Shore forever. And I think Jennifer Salvato Doktorski did a remarkable job conveying the heartbreak and the hope in the wake of what is called the Storm of the Century.
Book Description (From Amazon):
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances?
For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn't just the perfect summer escape, it's home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in during Memorial Day weekend, crowding her coastal town and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Still, she can't help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper.
Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy's summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.
Well, I'll tell you that I loved this story. It is probably my favorite book she has written so far. One of the things I love about the stories JSD writes is that I feel they are full of inside jokes just for me.
I've been to these places. I get the references. As I'm reading, I can see in my mind's eye exactly where she is talking about. And I couldn't be more excited about this being a story that takes place at the shore.
References like Madame Marie's, the twin bridges, bennies, Bruce, these are all things I know. And this book really felt like going home to me. It made me remember what it was like to get up while still dark to go to the beach and watch the sunrise. What it was like hanging on that hot sand with the sun beating down. And what it was like dealing with all the out-of-towners invading our turf.
In this story, Lucia (Luce) and her family have just returned back to their home after being evacuated for 8 months. They weren't far away, just over the bridge staying with her grandmother in a retirement community. Their first floor had to be gutted, but the upper floors were fine; however, the rental bungalow on their property was pretty much destroyed and needs rebuilding entirely.
Connor Malloy is the seasonal neighbor she has had a crush on for some time, but she knew she would never be in his league, so she worshipped him from afar. I mean, they were friends and all, but that's it. Connor had a parade of girls coming and going through his life and Luce knew she could never mean anything to him.
Until Sandy was on the way. They shared a moment, and in the moment was the promise of something more, but when he didn't call as he said he would and the only exchange they had were a couple of texts, she began to wonder if it was all in her head. If there was never a moment or if it meant nothing to him even though it meant everything to her.
A couple of months later and she still hasn't heard from him other than those texts when her best guy friend asked her out. Not sure if she should, afraid of ruining their friendship, she said yes. He was her first boyfriend. Everyone said they were perfect for each other, but I think it was a distraction tactic, to get over thinking about Connor all the time.
And it almost worked, until she opens the shade of her attic bedroom to see Connor shirtless doing repairs on the roof of their house next door. That starts a whole chain reaction of thoughts and feelings she thought she had buried over the winter. And she has Andrew. They get each other. But she realizes Andrew doesn't make her go all squishy inside the way Connor can by just walking in a room.
So, she's dealing with school work still, writing a junior thesis about the dating and mating habits of the local wildlife. She wants to be a marine mammalogist and volunteers to assist with the reclam effort in the bay. She is counting on a summer internship on one of the barrier islands, dealing with the fact that she has to take her driver's test, her house is still in repair. And, oh yeah, her old crush is back in town and he has brought his girlfriends along with him for the weekend.
Having all these feelings of Connor stirred up she thought were long buried makes her question her relationship with Andrew. She has never spoken to anyone about what passed between the Connor and herself. Her friends have the perfect summer planned out which includes her being with Andrew. To make matters worse, her brother is down rite hostile towards Connor, which causes a bit of a rift between Luce and Liam.
Underlying her relationship issues, are glimpses of the community rebuilding after the storm. People are coming back home, making repairs, businesses are re-opening. There a volunteer effort to build new houses to replace the ones destroyed in the storm and another effort to reseed the clam beds in the bay. Seeing the shore area through Luce's eyes, you are privy to her thoughts and feelings. It is a unique opportunity to understand just one person's perspective and how it changed her life and those around her.
This story was at times uplifting and full of hope and at others, sad and emotional, to understand the full magnitude of what was lost in the storm. It was also so familiar to me in so many ways. Like coming home.