The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen
Published by Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster
Review copy provided by NetGalley
College friends Tina, Allie, and Savannah have remained friends in the years since their graduation, but time and life have definitely changed their friendships since the days when they shared housing together in college. So when their good friend Dwight’s wife Pauline decides to throw him a thirty-fifth birthday in Jamaica, giving the three women and their husbands an all-expense-paid vacation for a week, they each jump at the opportunity.
Each of them are dealing with a lot back home: Tina is overwhelmed with being a stay-at-home mother to three young children, Allie has just learned that a rare genetic disease runs in her family, and Savannah’s husband has recently cheated on her, a secret that she plans to keep from her friends on the trip. As the women spend the week on the beach, drinking cocktails and eating delicious meals, tensions mount at the same time a hurricane comes closer to Jamaica, and the women are forced to take a deeper look into themselves and at one another.
Everyone raves about Sarah Pekkanen, so it goes without saying that I was really looking forward to finally reading one of her novels. I liked a lot about this one: the writing is smart, the dialogue is snappy, and the women are easy for the reader to empathize with and relate to. Well, for the most part at least. I had a difficult time personally relating to them, but I’ll get into that in a second.
Pekkanen made the friendships in this novel feel very real to me. I could see how old feelings and petty jealousies from years past could resurface when spending an entire week with someone with whom you normally only see every few weeks or even every few months. She illustrated how strong the bonds between these women were, while also showing how, close as they were, they were still afraid to let their guard down fully and be honest with one another about what was really going on in their lives. It felt very authentic, I can imagine having these same kinds of feelings with my own college friends.
I have to admit that while I empathized with each of the women, I couldn’t really identify with any of them. I don’t have children, so while Tina’s struggles with motherhood seemed real to me, I don’t personally know how that feels. Allie’s concern about potentially being a carrier for the genetic disease is something I’ve never experienced, and I’m happy to say that my husband hasn’t ever been unfaithful so I don’t know exactly how Savannah was feeling either. But I know that there are a lot of women out there who can relate to at least one of the three of them.
Also, I will say that while I didn’t really like Pauline, I could see where she was coming from and why she might be intimidated by the other three women. She invited her husband’s best friends – all women – to spend a week at a secluded resort with her and her husband. Weird, right? And while it sounds like a nice thing to do for one’s husband, it also sounds like a potential recipe for disaster. So I get her feelings of concern, of potentially feeling threatened by some of these women.
I didn’t love the ending of this one. I didn’t like some of the choices the women made and I also felt that, especially given some of these choices, things wrapped up a bit too neatly at the end. That being said, I did enjoy the novel overall and feel that it’s a great piece of smart, strong women’s fiction. While I’m a little concerned that I didn’t fall head-over-heels in love with this Pekkanen novel like I was expecting to, it did make for a compelling, solid reading experience and I’ll definitely pick up some of her other books. For those die-hard Pekkanen lovers out there – which of her novels is your favorite?
Recommended for fans of women’s fiction!