Now and Then Friends: A Hartley-By-The-Sea Novel. Kate Hewitt. Penguin Publishing Group. July 2016. 368 pp. ISBN#: 9780451475596.
Life hasn’t turn out the way Rachel Campbell or Claire West expected. They were both best friends when they were in elementary school many years ago. Now, they meet anew when Claire West returns to Hartley-By-The-Sea and the awkwardness between the two is obvious to everyone else in the small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. But no one knows what the problem between these two characters is and the two women really can’t put their finger on the problem either. Suffice to say that both women are “empty and a tad angry” inside.
Rachel’s Mom broke her back years ago and is an invalid; thus, Rachel must care for her family as her father has been gone for years as well. She cleans houses to make a small living and it’s obvious hers is a hard life. Claire West, on the other hands, grew up as a rich girl who could have anything she wanted. But now she’s returned, she has to honestly admit her life has been one big “show” run by her family and then fiancé. Now she’s seeking something new but excessively timid as she’s never learned to function alone. While this sounds like a dour story, it isn’t that bad at all. There are enough snarky comments to add some humor to Rachel and Claire’s situations.
Obviously, from the title, these two women might have a chance as good friends again, but first they have to get over their bitterness, fear and animosity toward anyone who reaches out to them with compassion. One can see how these chronic attitudes can wear on other characters, but the chemistry between the two women just might thaw enough to make a different future. Ironically, even though there are brief, bleak scenes, there’s a magic in this story that keeps the reader hoping for something better than what these two women have at the beginning of this novel.
Life is as hard as one makes it. Those who know Rachel and Claire also know that still waters run deep and turbulent, and the reader gets to see the unwinding of some rather nasty background junk. Stuff sometimes only friends can unfreeze. Very nicely written and recommended contemporary fiction!