This past week our book club met to discuss our latest read. We met at a new restaurant in town called Corner Bakery Cafe. It’s Panera-esque with salads, sandwiches, soups, and desserts. It was pretty delicious. They have a fudge brownie that is AMAZING. The rest of dinner was good too, but the brownie was the clear winner. Mmmmm, brownies. And I’m distracting myself with dessert talk. Back to the subject at hand!
Author: Miranda Beverly-Whittmore
Format I Read: Kindle
Synopsis: Mabel Dagmar is a plain girl with a plain life. She finds it hard to believe that her college roommate is chic, gorgeous, wealthy Ev Winslow. Despite their differences they become friends, and Mabel is invited to spend the summer with the mega-rich, super-influential Winslows at their family compound, Winloch. Mabel is suddenly living in a high-class world that she previously had only been able to imagine. She also begins to uncover the dark secrets that only the very wealthy can afford to keep. Mabel soon finds that this summer, for better or worse, will change the rest of her life.
Thoughts: I am a sucker for a good mystery. I enjoy not knowing what is going to happen in a book. I’ve heard rumors there are people who read the last page of a book first, and I cannot imagine being those people. One reason I love Agatha Christie so much is that she always keeps me guessing. Usually I have no idea who did it and why until Poirot or Miss Marple reveals it all, and I like it that way. Bittersweet kept me guessing, and I liked it. There were plot twists aplenty mixed in with a healthy dose of prince and pauper sentimentality. The Winslows are beyond rich, and Mabel, our narrator, has had to help her parents in their dry cleaning shop her whole life just to make ends barely meet. Seeing through Mabel’s point of view lets us experience how desperately she wants to be a part of this world that is so different from her own. I get the sense that Mabel would have gone anywhere with anyone that summer to stay away from her parents, but it just happened to be the Winslows that came along and offered her a way out.
As the secrets and deception start to build, I didn’t always side with Mabel. You begin to think she may be unreliable as the narrator, and perhaps, her own secrets and deceptions make her no better than the people around her. I found her relationship with Ev particularly interesting and troubling at the same time. Mabel quickly formed a closeness, especially with Ev but also with the entire Winslow way of life, that bordered on obsession. I’ve never been fabulously wealthy, or really anything even remotely close to wealthy, but having that much money could easily skew one’s moral compass. I think Mabel quickly realizes this fact, but in essence her struggle through the whole book is how far will she allow her own morality to be skewed in order to become a Winslow.
Beverly-Whittmore describes Winloch in a way that makes it easy to envision the multi-acre compound nestled away in a forested spot in Vermont. Her writing is clear and intelligent. One of my book club ladies said there were sentences sprinkled throughout that she felt, as she read them, were able to verbalize something that you’ve felt as true but could never quite put into words. The mystery and suspense propels you through making it a fairly quick read. I felt in the end there was one piece of the puzzle that could have used a bit more explanation and resolution, but overall, this was a suspenseful, well-written book that is worth the reading time.