Cape May (Cheek)

Cape May:  A Novel
Chip Cheek, 2019
Celadon Books
256 pp.
ISBN-13:
9781250297150


Summary
A mesmerizing debut novel by Chip Cheek, Cape May explores the social and sexual mores of 1950s America through the eyes of a newly married couple from the genteel south corrupted by sophisticated New England urbanites.

Late September 1957.

Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short.

But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.

Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Chip Cheek is an American author whose debut novel, Cape May, was published in 2019. His stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Washington Square, and other journals and anthologies.

He has been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as an Emerging Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation.

He lives in El Segundo, California, with his wife and baby daughter (Adapted from the publisher.)



Book Reviews
If you can’t get enough of women’s fiction novels with a twist, Cape May will be your perfect book club read.
Parade


Cheek’s glamorous and nostalgic first novel is an atmospheric tale of sexual longing and loss in 1950s America that nods to classics like The Great Gatsby and Revolutionary Road.
Independent (UK)


Cheek’s smoldering debut novel focuses on naïve newlyweds from rural Georgia on their honeymoon in the chilly off-season of historic Cape May, New Jersey, in the 1950s, at a moment of fading postwar innocence. When a trio of hedonistic socialites appear on the scene, the gin-infused dynamic of this ensemble drama subverts the couple’s romance and fidelity. In propulsive prose, Cheek provides an eerie, suspenseful thrill, and the callow narrator reflects the world on the brink of change.
The National Book Review


Cheek’s strong debut is a psychodrama that shows just how easily people can be manipulated.… Cheek does a good job with his cast…. The novel’s ending is particularly startling—a memorable final note in this cogent examination of marital infidelity and betrayal.
Publishers Weekly


This erotic debut novel will draw in readers and stay with them. The author’s perceptive exploration of innocence and experience, corruption and betrayal, makes for compelling reading.
Library Journal


(Starred review) This remarkable debut novel offers a sobering reminder of how the possibilities of life, when first encountered, often carry their own riptide.
Booklist


(Starred review) Deceptively relaxed and simple at first…. It soon reveals itself as a swirling vortex of psychological suspense…. The 1950s setting, the pellucid prose, and the propulsive plot make this very steamy debut novel about morality and desire feel like a classic.
Kirkus Reviews


In Cape May, Cheek shows that every couple encounters such a moment of their own—whether physical, emotional or some combination of both—and it holds the power to change a relationship forever.
Shelf Awareness



Discussion Questions
1. How does the anonymity provided by a mostly-empty seaside town contribute to the story?

2. How does the time period inform the characters’ interactions and decisions throughout the book?

3. Henry is only 20 years old, and Effie just 18. Do their ages change how you feel about them? Why or why not?

4. What role do wealth and status play in the characters’ perspectives on life and on each other?

5. Discuss how you feel about Alma.

6. Marriage involves both give and take. What does Henry give? Take? How about Effie? What can this tell us about their relationship from beginning to end?

7. Is it possible to define a “breaking point” for a marriage? What factors have to be considered? Do you think it is possible to truly forgive?

8. Would Henry and Effie’s marriage have been different if they hadn’t gone to Cape May for their honeymoon?

9. Discuss how you feel about the epilogue.
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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