I read another of Morgan’s books last winter, The Christmas Sisters, and surprisingly enjoyed it, even though it was bit more “novel-y” than I usually prefer. I decided to give her newest book a chance, and while it’s not one I see myself revisiting, I did enjoy it and have put several of Morgan’s backlist books on my TBR. As with The Christmas Sisters, The Summer Seekers follows three different women at different stages of their lives. Kathleen is getting older, and her (adult) daughter Liza thinks Kathleen needs to give up her house and move into a retirement home of some kind. But Kathleen, who was a travel journalist throughout her life, is actually craving adventure and decides that what she needs is a roadtrip. And what better place to take one than across the US? Knowing she can’t do all the driving herself, she advertises for a travel companion – which is how she meets Martha, a young woman, newly divorced and feeling adrift, who is actually a terrible driver, but who decides to take the plunge and head off with Kathleen anyway. Meantime, Liza, feeling completely overwhelmed by life, a busy husband, and unappreciative daughters, thinks her mom has completely lost it – and then has a bit of a mini-breakdown of her own.
There were several strands of this story that felt a little overdone (Martha’s mother felt just almost comically bad – would any mother actually tell her daughter that said daughter’s husband was justified in having an affair because the daughter had gained some weight???). I hated the fact that Kathleen had literally spent her whole life not opening letters – one of my least favorite plot tropes of ALL TIME. And Liza’s breakdown felt a little over-the-top. I also got annoyed because we are told repeatedly that Kathleen wasn’t a very good mother, what with all the traveling and all – and the fact that she has NEVER TOLD HER DAUGHTER SHE LOVED HER – but it’s presented as basically justified because if Kathleen had been a man/father, everyone would have been fine with it?? First off, no, I’m not fine with men being horrible parents, and secondly – that’s the best you can come up with? Men suck as parents, so women should be allowed to suck also?? How does that make sense??
BUT to balance it out, there are so many fun and happy scenes. Martha’s little love affair was a bit insta-lovey, but still fun, and I enjoyed seeing her grow in self-confidence throughout the story. I appreciated that Kathleen was able to face up to mistakes she had made and apologize for them, even if it did take her like 50 years to do it. Better late than never, I guess. (Moral: FREAKING READ LETTERS PEOPLE WRITE TO YOU) Liza’s storyline had the real potential to make or break this book for me, because I genuinely hate when women “discover” that they’ve actually “wasted” their lives taking care of their families – but instead Morgan made the incredibly realistic decision to have both Liza’s husband AND Liza BOTH realize that they had made mistakes throughout their marriage and that if they wanted to make it work – and they do – then they will BOTH have to work together going forward. So many times authors just make the husband do all the groveling because OBVIOUSLY the wife can do no wrong – but here Liza actually faces up to the fact that she’s been expecting her husband to just read her mind and ignore the fact that she keeps telling him everything and everyone is fine, even when she’s not. I felt really optimistic about their marriage at the end of the book, like they had turned onto a good path and were going to have a great marriage going forward.
While The Summer Seekers wasn’t my favorite book of the year, it was still and enjoyable and engaging read. If you like your novels with some fluffy romance, or your romance with some more serious themes, this may be a good read for you.