First published in 2016
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review!
The Short Of It:
I loved everything about this book, from the split time periods to the rich atmosphere to the wonderfully drawn characters to the addicting plot. It's a perfect summer read!
The Long Of It:
I was completely wrapped up in this lovely dual narrative, which is set in the tiny town of St. Jude, Ohio, in June 1955 and June 2015. It's a tale of friendship, family, romance and secrets. It features a once-grand old house, Hollywood glamour and wonderful, dynamic characters who change and grow with the story.
Cassie Danvers has just inherited the creaky old mansion of Two Oaks in rural St. Jude, Ohio, following the death of her beloved grandmother, June, the woman who raised her. Cassie needs an escape from her life in New York City, so she retreats to her grandmother's home. But she's so depressed about her messy life and the loss of her grandmother -- the only family she had -- that she becomes a hermit, rarely leaving the house, never answering the phone and letting a mountain of mail pile up, not to mention neglecting the plethora of necessary repairs Two Oaks needs.
So she's shocked when the doorbell rings one day. She opens it to reveal a handsome young man bearing the news that she has been named the sole benefactor in the estate of ultra-famous actor Jack Montgomery, who claimed in his will that Cassie was his secret granddaughter. Just as shocked as Cassie at this news is Jack's daughter Tate, a famous actress in her own right who is understandably upset about being left out of her father's will. Tate demands a DNA test, but Cassie is more interested in digging into her beloved grandmother's past. Could straight-laced June actually have gotten pregnant out of wedlock -- with a man other than her grandfather? If so, what other secrets had June been hiding all this time?
Meanwhile in 1955, we meet 18-year-old June, the woman who will become Cassie's grandmother. June's story is told through the eyes of Lindie, June's best friend and four years her junior. Lindie has a pretty big secret of her own -- she's passionately in love with June. June, though, is engaged in a semi-arranged marriage, and in this and many other matters she's torn between doing what is right and expected, and doing what will make her feel happy and free and joyful. When a Hollywood movie crew -- including handsome star Jack Montgomery -- descends on the tiny town of St. Jude, Ohio, June has the chance to change the course of her life, or at least live a little.
Beautiful and selfless June actually comes off as a little prickly at times, but Lindie is warm, adventurous and determined. She also bravely brushes off the insults when other girls tease her about not wearing dresses or being a tomboy, and she continues being June's biggest supporter and best friend despite knowing her secret love can never be requited.
I imagine most readers will be more drawn to one narrative or the other, and since I love historical fiction I was surprised that I was always itching to get back to the modern-day story. I really liked Cassie, and I enjoyed seeing her emerge from her shell, regain her passion for life and rediscover her self-confidence as Tate (her aunt?) and her entourage -- including Nick, the cute guy who rang her doorbell to give her the jaw-dropping news -- descend on Two Oaks.
One of my favorite things about the novel was that the house, once majestic and now dilapidated, is alive in a sense. It was a bit quirky, sure, to be reading the house's thoughts -- it pines to have people in it again, to feel love within its walls, and to have that gaping hole in its roof mended -- but I enjoyed those fun, poignant little sections, especially since I'm a sucker for old houses and can't help but imagine all the people who lived between those walls and all the stories and memories -- good and bad -- made there.
I loved this book; I absolutely could not put it down, and I felt so invested in the characters. I almost gave it a full 5 stars, but there were some questions left unanswered; most of them are too spoiler-y to mention in a review, but I definitely wanted more details about what went south with Cassie's life in New York City. Overall, though, that's a very small matter, and the skilled writing, engrossing plot and satisfying ending more than make up for it. I definitely recommend adding "June" to your summer reading list!