I had never read a book by Elin Hilderbrand until recently. I watched an interview with her on CBS This Morning. I found her warm and engaging, so I decided to read her most recent book: Golden Girl. It turned out to be a good decision!
Vivian Howe, a successful author of thirteen beach novels and mother to three nearly grown children, anticipates the publication of her most recently completely novel. As Vivian jogs along the road near her Nantucket home, a hit and run driver knocks Vivian into the side of the road, killing her almost instantly. This fact is no spoiler since it happens quite early in the book and sets the rest of the novel.
As Vivian lies on the side of the road, Martha, her “person,” appears to explain to Vivian what has happened. Vivian is in disbelief and asks, “Is there a place on your form, a box you can check, so that they save me at the hospital?” Sadly, Martha, a realist, responds, “It’s too late. You’re dead.” That lends an air of finality to the matter.
Martha does tell Vivian that since the death was so sudden, Martha will “grant you a seventy-five VW and a three-N.” Martha explains that will allow Vivian a seventy-five days window from which she can watch her children. That will give Vivian until Labor Day. Three-N means Vivian will have three nudges to use with her children to nudge them into the right direction, but only three, so Vivian must use the nudges wisely.
The story is partly a mystery because readers do not know who hit and killed Vivian. Several suspects are questioned; still, the police are stymied for a time. What unfolds is more about Vivian’s children.
Willa is married and expecting her first child. She has had several early miscarriages, so the pregnancy is still a concern. Carson, the middle child and second daughter, has struggled since her parents divorced several years ago. She acted out as a teenager and is still trying to figure out who she is as a young adult. Leo, the youngest and only son, has just graduated from high school and is preparing for college in the fall. He, too, has had issues because of the divorce.
Naturally, Vivian is worried about her children and how they will fare without her. The divorce from their father occurred because he fell in love with a much younger woman, who was working for him at the time. Vivian makes far more than JP, her ex-husband, so she pays alimony and child support.
Cruz is another young man in Vivian’s life. He is her son Leo’s best mate and has spent a lot of time with the family. Vivian considers him another son, especially after his mother dies of cancer. Sadly, Cruz finds Vivian’s body on the side of the road and calls the paramedics. Does that make him a suspect?
I will let you readers unfold the story for yourselves. Obviously, astute readers will think of Our Town as Vivian watches her children navigate the world without her. How will Vivian use her three nudges and will they make a difference in the children’s lives?
I truly enjoyed the descriptions of food throughout the book. I knew to look for those descriptions because on CBS This Morning Gayle King asked Hilderbrand if she had ever thought about writing a cookbook since she includes so much about food in her books. Hilderbrand responded that she would like to write a cookbook in the future. Right now, she concentrates on writing and publishing a book each year.
Elin HIlderbrand graduated from The Johns Hopkins U and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Nantucket is her home, and it becomes a character in the novels.