Title: The Whole Thing Together
Author: Ann Brashares
Publisher: Delacorte Press, Random House Children’s
Anticipated Release Date: April 25, 2017
Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.
Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.
The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.
I received a free e-galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
As a young girl, I loved Brashares’ Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, so obviously I was thrilled when I came to realize that she was offering up something new. Ann Brashares delivers The Whole Thing Together with the beloved voice that she established with her first bestselling series, but mixes it up with new perspectives, new drama, and a load of new characters.
The Whole Thing Together is full of beachy, summery, sun & sand vibes and I would highly recommend soaking up the story under the Florida sun (but that’s just how I did it).
Though the story isn’t always light and breezy, I felt as though Brashares did a great job of balancing the plot between hardships and triumphs. Each time the story turns down a new path, you can always count on the author bringing you back to its center at the beach house, an environment full of positives during times of difficulty. By establishing this house as the central point for almost all of the characters’ happiness at one point or another, the story stays focused. Even when characters are at their respective homes in Brooklyn and Manhattan and are dealing with impending disasters, they all experience a sense of serenity when it comes to reflecting on the beach house they adore.
That serenity translates really well to Brashares’ audience, and I myself felt a sense of calm overwhelm me when each character finally settles in for their time at the beach house.
Despite the focus that Brashares’ has with location, the storyline and characters do struggle to remain focused. Some of this stems from Brashares’ use of multiple characters’ perspectives without explicitly shifting between them. Within the same page two characters in two different places can be commenting on two very different things. This occurs with very minimal indication that the perspective is shifting–only a paragraph break signifies it. I had hoped that Brashares would utilize this structure differently, by separating characters by chapter or using some sort of symbol to show a perspective change. If she had done something different, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten as lost as I did at times.
Though I was left frazzled by the changing perspectives at times, I really did enjoy the intertwining of the five main characters’ (Emma, Mattie, Quinn, Ray and Sasha) storylines. Each one of them experiences at least one monumental moment or comes to a life-changing realization, which helps them to grow as characters and in their relationships with each other.
Most of them deal with their challenges individually–but their constant reliance on one another for support is admirable. As readers, we come to know many deep secrets about all of the characters, which are things that the others within the book aren’t aware of. Knowing what we know, and watching the family encourage each other in such a loving way, even when they’re unsure of the others’ internal struggles, is a great quality instilled within the protagonists. They’re all compassionate in their own right.
As I mentioned, all of the characters endure something revolutionary during their time in the novel, however, I wished for more. Following the novel’s enticing synopsis, the drama seemed promising–full of betrayal, lies, and secrets. All of these things are present, yet the conflict that arises from them doesn’t remain for very long. I felt as though most of the conflicts the characters encounter were solved almost immediately–with the only prolonged one being Lila and Robert’s resent for one another.
Overall, I had a really pleasurable reading experience with The Whole Thing Together. It was a great beach read and it really captured my attention. Had there been a bit more dramatic intrigue and had the perspectives been clearer, this book would have scored more than 3/5 stars from me. If you’re a fan of Brashares’ earlier work or if you love vacation vibes in your reading material, I would definitely recommend this book for you.
The Whole Thing Together – 3/5 stars.