“The Family Beach House” by Holly Chamberlain of Portland takes readers to Ogunquit where the McQueen family is vacationing at their beach house, Larchmere, which has been in the family for years. The family has gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Charlotte McQueen, the matriarch of the family.
The story unfolds through the eyes of Tilda, the eldest of the McQueen daughters. She is a recent widow. Her siblings are Adam, divorced, who arrives with his new girlfriend, Kat, and his two young children by his first marriage, Cordelia and Cody; Hannah and her wife, Susan — Susan wants a baby, Hannah isn’t so sure; and Craig, the youngest of the four siblings, who has spent his life kicking around the country without acquiring anything, not even a relationship.
Their father, Bill, lives year round at the beach house with his sister Ruth, who is the strong, sensible aunt everyone looks to for strength and advice.
Thus the stage is set for the inevitable dramas that entangle most families at one time or another. But this is a family that keeps things under control — with the possible exception of self-absorbed Adam. Most of the struggles take place quietly within the hearts and minds of the siblings.
The crux of the story revolves around the drama Adam creates when he learns that his father, Bill, has a girlfriend, Jennifer, and plans to ask her to marry him.
Adam becomes convinced that once the marriage takes place Jennifer will dispossess the McQueens — meaning himself, in particular — of the house, which he sees as nothing more than a very valuable piece of real estate.
Adam puts up a stink and tries to get Bill’s lawyer to reveal the name of the sibling who will inherit the house eventually.
Each of the siblings have roadblocks in their lives that they need to get past — Tilda needs to move beyond the death of her husband, Frank, and find new meaning for her life; Hannah needs to figure out why the thought of parenthood scares her silly; and Craig needs to find out why he can’t stay in one place for more than a year and why he can’t attach to anyone. Adam needs to learn to be a human being, but everyone knows that isn’t going to happen.
The key for each sibling is, of course, how they related to their mother, who though dead, is very much a presence in the house.
“The Family Beach House” explores questions about the meaning of home, family dynamics and tolerance.
To learn more about the book, visit www.kensingtonbooks.com or visit your local bookstore or library.