Lately I’ve felt a desperate, renewed desire to get outside and enjoy the warmer months as best as possible. Perhaps it’s because of the pandemic restrictions, but even though it’s only mid-July I’m worried that summer is slipping away without my fully enjoying it, so I’m doing all I can to soak up the sun (covered in sunscreen of course). I’m trying to reflect this ‘summertime vibe’ in all activities, so reading is an obvious choice to help immerse myself into this too short season. Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews is a beach read through and through, beginning with the beach pictured on the cover. Looking for a book to relax and enjoy? I recommend using the cover as a clue; just looking at this I can feel my blood pressure lowering and a small smile spreading across my face. Raised pink metallic lettering on the cover? Perfect.
Conley is a young woman with a promising journalism career ahead of her, but when her next job falls through she lands back home in small town Florida, staying with her G’mama and sparring with her older sister Grayson over the future prospects of their family newspaper, “The Beacon”. With print journalism shrinking further and further The Beacon is suffering, but Conley’s attention is quickly turned a small town scandal: the strange death of a prominent senator. After flipping his car and perishing in the fiery crash it’s discovered he left behind quite a few things including a secret family, warring family members and unexplained large amounts of cash. And of course there is romance! Conley is too busy to commit to a relationship, especially with her intentions of leaving home to get back to the big city and big city career, but the guy next door is awfully kind, and he’s a great cook…
I don’t have to spell out for you what kind of a book this is. A quick scan of the cover and the inside blurb will tell you all you need to know. It’s entertaining, it’s lighthearted, bad people get what’s coming to them, and most plot threads are wrapped up in a satisfying way. There’s some humor and the serious issues have a light touch, so dipping in and out of this book is easy. Even though it is 470 pages long, I flew through it in a matter of days. Conley leads a busy life so she’s working around the clock, but she also takes time to go on sunset strolls along the beach, so the pacing is perfect for a summertime read. Each character has their own little quirk to make them memorable and easy to follow within the plot line, and not all the questions get resolved (I still had a few lingering ‘what was the point of that’ moments) but the twists came along steadily so I never grew bored.
Unfortunately I didn’t connect with the protagonist Conley. Even though we view the world through her own eyes I had trouble understanding her motivations, actually finding her somewhat selfish. Despite this, there were enough characters with admirable traits that left me with a rosy feeling, my favourite being an older, eccentric woman named Rowena. She is the colourful character that authors the Hello, Summer gossip column for the Beacon, and she lives in a crumbling mansion with her little dog, making snide remarks about others that are well disguised beneath a Southern veneer of politeness. Doesn’t she sound entertaining? My favourite scene is when she gives Conley a copy of her self-published memoir, then demands a $40 payment because “You can’t imagine how much money it costs to publish a book with so many photographs” (p. 118).
A quick browse of the Mary Kay Andrews website will quickly explain why she’s known as the “Queen of the Beach Reads”, and honestly, why not? I revel in the pleasure I get when settling into a book that I know I’ll find delightful. I don’t always want to be challenged when I’m reading, and even though I can’t call this a ‘thought-provoking read’ I can still recommend it to those who are looking to bring a book to the beach or, find a book that will take them to the beach. And although this is totally unrelated to the book, I found an interesting sidebar on her website. Andrews owns two beach houses, and they are both for rent. My curiosity got the better of me so I scrolled through the photos, and they are gorgeous! I can easily see how these homes inspire her and the books she writes. I wish I had seen these photos before I read the book because I would have had a clearer picture of Conley’s surroundings while I was reading. So, if you do plan on reading any of her books, check out her beach homes first, they will help you situate the characters and add to the overall enjoyment of the reading experience.