Return to the Beach House
by Georgia Bockhoven
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: women’s fiction
3.5 / 5
Over the course of one year, in a charming cottage by the sea, eight people will discover love and remembrance, reconciliation and reunion, beginnings and endings in this unforgettable sequel to Georgia Bockoven’s The Beach House and Another Summer.
Alison arrives at the beach house in June to spend a month with her restless grandson before he leaves for his freshman year in college. Over a decade before, Alison lost her beloved husband, and has faced life alone ever since. Now she discovers a new life, and possible new love.
August brings together four college friends facing a milestone. Across summer’s final days, they share laughter, tears, and love—revealing long-held secrets and creating new and even more powerful bonds.
World-class wildlife photographer, Matthew, and award-winning war photographer, Lindsey, arrive at the beach house in January, each harboring the very real fear that it will mark the end of their decade-long love affair. Alone in the house’s warm peace, they will be forced to truly look at who they are and what they want, discovering surprising truths that will change their lives forever.
The beach, as my grandmother used to say, cures what ails you. That certainly is the case for the eight people who stay at Bockhoven’s beach house.
The strongest, least emotionally manipulative, story of the bunch is the first one, belonging to Allison and Christopher. She’s reeling from her husband and son’s deaths, even though it occurred over a dozen years earlier. When she realizes that her attempts to ensure that the memories of her husband and son stay strong in Christopher’s mind have in fact hurt him, it is a heartbreaking scene indeed. The used car salesman she meets (who, by the way, defies all stereotypes about used car salesmen) presents a perfect foil: he, too, lost a spouse, but his approach to widow(er)hood is different from Allison’s.
The dynamics in the first story are interesting and emotionally intense. Christopher is trying to find himself beyond the shadows of two dead men he never really knew, and Allison is trying to be the faithful spouse in the face of increasing loneliness.
We also meet Grace in this story, the teenage girl next door who helps “manage” the beach house for its owner. She’s also searching, but hers is based in fear of being left.
It’s a well written, engrossing story.
Then comes the second story, which, while entertaining, is way too pat. The four friends who reunite are each hiding something (of course they are), but the bonds of friendship help them regain their trust of one another. Each of the women has her own voice, and the struggles each face ring true. I enjoyed when there was friction because, let’s face it, you put four women together, and there will be friction. Bockhoven understands her characters and lets us get to know them.
What stops me from enjoying this one as much as the first story is its ending. The tension builds and builds, and then it just sort of falls flat.
The third story … oy vey.
Matt and Lindsey’s relationship will make you wonder why they’re together and what they see in each other. They are together so infrequently that their hold on each other must be intense, right? Yet they each keep HUGE information from the other. I just did not understand that at all. The ending almost seems discordant compared to the emotional toll their story casts over us.
This third story was not my favorite.
But the first one? I loved it. The second one, too, is enjoyable. I just didn’t care for the third.
Georgia Bockoven is an award-winning author who began writing fiction after a successful career as a freelance journalist and photographer. Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. The mother of two, she resides in Northern California with her husband, John.