Summer Wives (Williams)

Summer Wives 
Beatriz Williams, 2018
William Morrow
384 pp.
ISBN-13: 978

Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—an electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power, and redemption set among the inhabitants of an island off the New England coast

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island as a schoolgirl from the margins of high society, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War.

When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda’s catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans: the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses.

Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself.

Since childhood, Joseph’s enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and as the summer winds to its end, Miranda’s caught in a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the landmark summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak.

On its surface, the Island remains the same—determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naïve teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice for the man she once loved … even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio Birth—ca. 1971-72
Where—Seattle, Washington, USA
Education—B.A., Stanford University; M.B.A., Columbia University
Currently—lives in Greenwich, Connecticut

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons.

She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Williams transports readers to a time and place replete with glamour, drama and secrets. Delving into the inner sanctum of wealthy families to expose the dark sides of their lives is something Williams excels at.… [T]his a hard-to-put-down read and one you’ll want to savor.
Romance Times

The intricate and complex web of relationships within stated conventions are skillfully created and add depth to the narrative. Longtime Williams fans, readers of historical fiction and mysteries, and anyone seeking engaging plot twists will find satisfaction in these pages. —Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH
Library Journal

Longtime Williams fans, readers of historical fiction and mysteries, and anyone seeking engaging plot twists will find satisfaction in these pages.

Twenty years after a murder at her family's tony Long Island Sound summer enclave, an expatriate actress returns to right a terrible injustice and heal her broken heart.… With just the right touch of bitters… satisfyingly tempestuous—and eminently beachworthy.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to start a discussion for SUMMER WIVES … then take off on your own:

1. How would you compare the different Mirandas of this novel: the younger version of 1951 and the later one of 1969? What has changed?

2. Describe the early relationship between the two step-sisters, Miranda and Isobel. How does their relationship change when Miranda returns nearly 20 years later?

3. What else on the island has changed in Miranda's 20-year absence?

4. As as an author, Beatriz Williams is particularly deft at digging into the interior lives of women; Summer Wives is no exception. On her return to the island, Miranda Schuyler is hiding a bruised eye, indicative of a troubled relationship, a literal wound indicative of an internal one. Yet Miranda bears wounds from her teen-aged years as well. What are the causes of those wounds, and what does Miranda eventually decide to do: endure the pain or push back against it?

5. Talk about the dual world of life on Winthrop Island between the year-round Portuguese community and the wealthy summer folk. Where does the Fisher family fit within this social hierarchy? Why does Isobel tell her father, for instance, that she is pleased with his choice for a new wife?

6. Williams peels back the layers of opulence and social status on Winthrop Island. What does she reveal?

7. What is the relationship between Isobel and Joseph Vargas? Were you able to figure out the real killer of Hugh Fisher, or were you caught by surprise?

8. Were you able to keep track of the many characters and the different timelines, or were you somewhat confused? Is there one era you found more appealing than the others: the 1930's, '50's, or the '60s?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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