As we get knee deep into the surf of summer, we head out to Martha’s Vineyard for the 10th pick of the Boston.com Book Club with Sunny Hostin’s “Summer on the Bluffs”! We have a unique approach with this book that we’re very excited about. First though, let’s talk about the book.
This book, which came out on May 4 and is already a New York Times bestseller, has layers upon layers. It ping-pongs between its four principal characters, Ama – matriarch, investor, and billionaire Amelia Vaux Tanner – and her three goddaughters, Perry Soto, Olivia Jones, and Billie Hayden (with brief interludes to other characters as well). When they were children, the three sisters spent every summer on the Vineyard, but now they’re grown, and rarely make it out for more than a week or two each summer, and not always at the same time. This summer is going to be different though.
When you’re as powerful as Ama is, you get to call in a few favors. And so it is that Perry’s law firm, Olivia’s Wall Street firm, and Billie’s Woods Hole lab have all agreed to give Ama’s goddaughters the whole summer off. So they all reconvene at Chateau Laveau, the “cottage” on Oak Bluffs – the most exclusive Black beach community in the country – that Ama and her husband Omar built 30 years ago. At the end of the summer, Ama will give the house – which has hosted American presidents, Wall Street titans, and cultural icons – to one of the goddaughters. All three want the house.
It feels like an ending. But so much of the girls’ lives here have never been adequately explained to them. Ama has kept many secrets. Painful secrets. And the girls have a few secrets of their own. As they all come out through the course of the summer, each threatens to fracture this family unit for good. But each paints a fuller picture of the four women, and with it comes an opportunity to bask in the full glory of each character before the book ends. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself wanting more of each character even right to the end. Which is good news, because “Summer on the Bluffs” is the first book in a trilogy!
While we generally pair a New England bookseller with an author for a discussion about the book, this time we’re calling in a ringer. Deesha Philyaw is not a bookseller nor a New Englander, but she is a featured author at the upcoming Martha’s Vinyard Book Festival. She is one of the 21 authors featured at the festival this year because her book, “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” was one of the biggest phenomenons of 2020. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award, and won the Pen/Faulkner Award, the Story Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among other accolades. Oh, and it was the very first project that actress Tessa Thompson chose to produce for HBO when she started her production company earlier this year. We thought it would be great to highlight this festival, and there’s no one we’d rather have do that than Philyaw.
Speaking of production deals, Hostin recently landed her own, and in partnership with ABC/Disney and actress Octavia Spencer, will be turning “Summer on the Bluffs” into a TV show of its own, which is beyond exciting. Of course, Hostin is no stranger to the television spotlight herself. As one of the co-hosts of “The View,” – ABC’s popular daytime talk show – you can see her on TV just about every day of the year, not to mention on ABC News as their senior legal correspondent. A federal prosecutor, Hostin has also hosted shows or appeared on Court TV, Fox News, Food Network, and Investigation Discovery.
Beyond their books themselves, the backdrops of being Black creators, making the literary world and TV more diverse, and Martha’s Vineyard and its upcoming festival should make for a fascinating discussion. “Summer on the Bluffs” was called “aspirational escapism” and “summer incarnate” by The New York Times Book Review, and earned praise from Publishers Weekly, The Boston Herald, Essence, Shondaland, and Kirkus Reviews, among others, and as previously mentioned, has already landed on the NYT bestseller list.
Join our virtual Book Club discussion
Join the Boston.com Book Club Wednesday, July 28 at 6 p.m. for a virtual discussion with Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival featured author Deesha Philyaw featured guest Sunny Hostin on her novel, “Summer on the Bluffs.”
Register to join Hostin and Philyaw on Wednesday, July 28 at 6 p.m.
Learn more about the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival here.
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Author: Aalto University
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