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Book Review: Summer People by Brian Groh

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Brian Groh’s debut novel Summer People has all the makings of a great summer read, with well-rounded characters, descriptive settings, and a plot that entertains.

A story of friendship, compassion and social privilege, the plot revolves around main character Nathan Empson, an aimless young college dropout and aspiring graphic novelist who becomes a summer "caretaker" for Ellen Broderick, the eccentric matriarch of Brightonfield Cove, Maine.

But what Nathan thinks is going to be an easy job — along the likes of escorting Ellen to the Alnombak Golf and Tennis Club, and joining her for an evening of cocktails and conversation at a neighbor's mansion — turns out to be more complicated than he thought, as he meets resitance from the locals. Apparently, the welcome mat to Brightonfield Cove isn't rolled out for outsiders .

Managing to befriend the philosophical, ex-punk Episcopalian pastor and the nanny of the pastor's children, Nathan is able to make himself a life in his new surroundings. And as he spends more time with both new friends, the attractive nanny, Leah, becomes more than friends with Nathan.

The longer Nathan stays, the more he learns about Ellen and her old friends, flames, and enemies. While he tries in vain to keep Ellen’s skeletons safely ensconced in their closets, he also has to rise above competition for Leah’s affection. Pulled in two directions, or torn between two women, Nathan tries to juggle both relationships, albeit bumblingly.

When faced with adversity after adversity, Nathan must learn to cope quickly, and hopefully mature in the process. While Nathan may or may not grow from his experiences, he is sure to entertain readers, if only for his “everyman” charm.

Groh, who grew up in Ohio, has lived in Great Britain, Costa Rica, and Maine, which explains the eloquent description of the book’s setting. He has written for the New Republic, MTV, and National Geographic Traveler.

At 294 pages, Summer People is quick, light reading – perfect for vacation or a lazy summer afternoon.

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