Title: The Best of Us
Genre: Commercial Fiction, Chick Lit
Summary: Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday.
All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.
The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.
If you’re heading someplace tropical, where a beach bag and sunglasses are a must, The Best of Us is worth packing in your suitcase. It’s an entertaining book that I can picture enjoying with my toes resting on warm sand and my fingers reaching out for a pina colada. The novel is a classic one—friends go on a vacation together and drama ensues—but with a modern telling. The Best of Us is told through the viewpoints of the four female characters, and their personal dilemmas parallel one another: each is challenged by life circumstances and each faces issues with trust, forgiveness, love, and satisfaction, told against the backdrop of marriage problems, health concerns, and the stress of parenting. Perhaps, because the female voices are so well-developed, I found myself (surprisingly) wondering what the male characters thought. This easy read is a likely a book you would leave behind when your tropical vacation is over—or even better, it’s one you might pass along to a friend.
Pekkanen’s fourth novel is like that first bite of a fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookie – it just feels like home. Following in the footsteps of her three other novels, the writing, the depth of characters and the story do not let the reader down. She paves her own path in women’s literature and continues to make a name for herself alongside other noted authors in the field, like Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin.
This story follows the lives of four couples as they reunite in Jamaica to celebrate their college friend’s 35th birthday. Throughout the novel we learn that their marriages are not what they seem; that the women struggle with things including fertility, health, self-esteem, and acceptance. The men, too, have their own issues with money, infidelity, and acceptance.
Pekkanen delicately guides us to the conclusion that no marriage and no person is perfect- and that is okay.
This novel is both heartwarming and heartbreaking in its depiction of what it means to be married, a woman, a daughter, a mother, and a friend.
Abby R. Bio
As a chick lit fan — and a Sarah Pekkanen fan in particular — I had a decent idea of what to expect from The Best of Us before I even started reading. Pekkanen always does a fantastic job of creating incredibly relatable female characters and portraying their lives (and, most often, their struggles) in an interesting and satisfying way … and “The Best of Us” was no exception. I’m not sure that it would turn any non-chick lit fans into converts, but it’s definitely a really solid read if you’re already a fan of the genre. Given the tropical setting, I think this would make a fantastic beach/summer vacation read, though I also appreciated the mental escape to Jamaica during the middle of a particularly chilly New England winter!
My only gripe with The Best of Us is that I thought the characters and story were interesting enough as a slow burn without what felt like a very manufactured dramatic event forcing the characters’ issues to a head (a sentence that would make infinitely more sense if I included a spoiler, but will hopefully make sense once you’ve read the book). I would have enjoyed seeing the characters come to grips with their emotions and relationship drama just as much without it. That said, even with the fairly cliched drama, I thought this was a great book, and I’m looking forward to reading Pekkanen’s next!
Sarah L. Bio
I was expecting a light, carefree read when I picked up The Best of Us. There were definitely elements of light and carefree–Jamaica, beautiful vacation villa, lots of alcohol–but Pekkanen handles some really weighty issues in this book as well. Each of the four mid-thirties female characters who tell the story are struggling with extremely difficult issues. I enjoyed Pekkanen’s storytelling and I really related to the characters. They were very real in the way they acted and the mistakes they made. The most compelling issues addressed were honesty between spouses, the difficulties and joys of motherhood, betrayal, and forgiveness. The men in the book weren’t as easy to relate to or as likable, though I think their wives read them pretty well and explain their behaviors. The best part of The Best of Us was seeing the characters change over the course of the book. It left me feeling satisfied and hopeful that people can change, and quickly too.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Is it great literature? Definitely not. But those of us who enjoy “chick lit” aren’t necessarily looking for that. The story of 3 old college friends and their husbands invited for a luxurious week in Jamaica to celebrate the birthday of another friend was immediately absorbing. I really enjoyed the portrayals of 4 different marriages, at different stages with different issues, as well as the suspense regarding which couples might split up or re-form. I have to say I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the vacation itself, as I will probably never have the chance to take such a high-end trip, and it was fun to live vicariously through the characters as they enjoy their surroundings. An exotic locale, relatable characters, a little sex, a big storm and some suspense made for a fun read, perfect for the beach this summer.
Read Also: Anything by Jennifer Weiner