The Queen of Beach Reads
Text by Fiona Clarke
Above: Author Elin Hilderbrand recently appeared on CBS This Morning Show to introduce her newly-released novel Golden Girl.
You know Elin Hilderbrand, whether you know that you know her or not. You’ve seen her at the airport and on Barnes & Noble bookshelves. That Airbnb you rented for a long weekend in the Florida Keys or La Jolla? She was there, too. Her book covers predominantly feature people’s feet on or near sand, mainly in Nantucket, plus an ambiguous title in gentle, summer-toned script — The Rumor, The Perfect Couple, Barefoot, A Summer Affair. The John Hopkins grad and Iowa Writers’ Workshop alum has gone on to successfully author 27 best-selling novels, which have sold close to 8 million copies between them.
To borrow a phrase from #resistance Twitter, of which Hilderbrand is a vocal part: This is not normal. Over the past five years, overall book sales have been stagnant, and fiction sales have dropped 20-percent. yet Elin Hilderbrand is an exception. Michael Pietsch, the CEO of Hachette Book Group, which publishes Hilderbrand, says, “Her sales have grown with every book we’ve published, and I’ve never seen that. She has driven herself beyond the gravitational pull of the industry.”
Above: Nantucket, the tiny island off Cape Cod known for its dune-backed beaches, is often the backdrop in the author’s novels.
Hilderbrand herself personifies summer: she’s blonde, deeply tanned, warm, cheerful and usually wearing what is best described as a flowing, strappy sundress with stylish stilettos. Her frankness, and willingness to talk about anything and everything is what makes Hilderbrand such a compelling narrator and her books so delightful to read. It’s as though she knows you and trusts you with the town’s secrets, and it’s this quality, especially, that appeals to her most die-hard fans. In fact, each January, about 200 of her followers make a pilgrimage for the “Elin Hilderbrand Weekend” on Nantucket, where readers can do yoga with Elin, drink with Elin, and take pictures with Elin.
Hilderbrand’s newly-release book, Golden Girl, has all of the author’s trademark beach scenes, mouth-watering meals, and picture-perfect homes, plus a heartfelt message—the people we lose never really leave us.
The story goes…On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she’s assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer. Vivi also is granted three “nudges” to change the outcome of events on earth, and with her daughter Willa on her third miscarriage, Carson partying until all hours, and Leo currently “off again” with his high-maintenance girlfriend, she’ll have to think carefully where to use them.
Above: Elin Hilderbrand has successfully authored 27 best-selling novels.
From the Beyond, Vivi watches police chief Ed Kapenash investigate her death, but her greatest worry is her final book, which contains a secret from her own youth that could be disastrous for her reputation. But when hidden truths come to light, Vivi’s family will have to sort out their past and present mistakes—with or without a nudge of help from above—while Vivi finally lets them grow without her.
Drawing on Hilderbrand’s real life experiences—at age 16 she lost her father to a fatal plane crash and then, in her mid-forties, battled breast cancer. Her condition was so grave that the doctor suggested she should say goodbye to her three children. What sustained her as a teen was the feeling that her dad was always looking over her shoulder, and with that in mind, Hilderbrand assured her children that she would never, ever leave them.
Golden Girl delivers the message that love transcends tragedy. Acknowledging that most of us have lost someone before their time, Hilderbrand weaves a story that when facing personal loss, the reader also will experience a sense of comfort, opportunities and even joy.