Summer Darlings

Written by Brooke Lea Foster
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1962, Brooklyn coed Heddy Winsome takes a summer job with an affluent family on Martha’s Vineyard as a nanny for their two spoiled kids. Although her employers, Jean-Rose and Ted, treat her well, they seem enigmatic. Ted has affairs and is rude to Jean-Rose, who is mostly busy with the island’s socialites. The housekeeper, Grace, enlightens Heddy on the island’s eccentricities. But it’s Jean-Rose’s friend Gigi, an actress, who is a mentor to Heddy. When she learns that her Wellesley College scholarship is revoked on account of a misstep, it puts Heddy in a quandary. Unable to rely on her hard-working single mother, Heddy needs additional funds to return to college for her senior year. She is attracted to two very different young men vacationing on the island. One lives in a beach hut and encourages her to continue her education, and the other is from a rich family. However, the plot thickens when Jean-Rose accuses Heddy of theft, which might jeopardize her future.

This debut novel by Brooke Lea Foster has an exciting theme, a bit of a rags-to-riches story set amidst the glamorous life on Martha’s Vineyard during the Kennedy era. The plot skillfully includes the lives of summer residents on the island, mostly the rich but some underprivileged as well. It holds our interest up to the unpredictable ending. The Vineyard’s cuisine, landscape, and notable attractions are described adequately, to make the scenes play in our mind. The historical aspects of the 1960s are handled well. The mentions of the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe’s tragic suicide, and other events add depth to the story. The novel examines the divide between the poor and the rich and deliberates whether wealth can make us truly happy. A thought-provoking read that transports us to a virtual holiday on Martha’s Vineyard.