Book review: ‘The Best of Us’ by Sarah Pekkanen

The Best of UsHurricane Betty isn’t the only storm a-brewin’.

“Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmate’s thirty-fifth birthday.

All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.

he week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others — and herself.” (Goodreads)

Centering on the dynamics between four very different women, Sarah Pekkanen’s The Best of Us is a novel that reads like a daydream. Seriously, the scenery of Jamaica and the private villa where the group convenes? If the descriptions of sumptuous meals prepared by a private chef and the sunny, perfect beach don’t get you, imagine the comfort and relaxation of having an entire estate to yourself . . . you know, until stuff starts to get real.

And get real it does. Each character packs their own brand of baggage, and readers can only lounge in their favorite armchair and let it all unfold. While I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in the characters as I would have liked, Pekkanen’s quick pacing and non-stop action kept me reading to the dramatic conclusion.

Dramatic, I tell you.

I felt like a fly on the wall in The Best of Us — in a good way, I reckon. There’s so much happening that, at several points, I had to concentrate on who was mad at whom and why and where and what. Verging on being afflicted with the fatal Too Many Characters-itis, it took me a solid 70 pages or so to really get everyone’s stories straight . . . but once I did, it all clicked.

Of the four women, my favorite character was actually Savannah, the newly-separated fiery friend who seemed misunderstood. Though her flirtations with certain members of the group were a little silly, I felt like I got to know her the best — and understood her better than Tina, for example. The only thing I really got about Tina? She’s a tired, stressed-out mom carrying more weight than she’d like, and she and her husband have no intimacy issues. (Perhaps that explains the four kids, no?)

More so than the others, Savannah was dynamic and interesting. As she struggles with her husband’s infidelity and whether to divulge the truth to her friends, I felt like she was the most fleshed-out member of this party. Pauline was a compelling character, too, but I could never really figure out if she truly loved Dwight or was just a hopeless gold-digger. I think it was both — but Dwight was so sweet and nice, I couldn’t forgive her for that. Until Dwight went and did something nasty, and then I was like . . . UMWHATIDONT’KNOWTHESEPEOPLEATALL.

At some point or other, everyone in the book let me down . . . but perhaps that was the point. Regardless of past or present grievances, the couples find a way to move past old hurts. Love isn’t superficial, or transient, or blind. And even with the myriad of issues everyone is facing, they’re taking their marriages seriously. They’re a real commitment. They’re finding their way back to each other . . . even if it takes a hurricane to do so.

In terms of a storm, I guess I expected a little more from Hurricane Betty . . . though the real turmoil revolved around what was actually brewing in the house. The hurricane was a metaphor, of course, for a dozen issues all coming to a head at once. The scene centering on a crazy-butt decision Allie made felt a little over-the-top, but I went with it because of the realization — and resolution — that came after.

Overall, fans of Pekkanen and women’s fiction as a whole will find an interesting, pleasant diversion in The Best of Us. Anyone seeking a bit of afternoon escapism might get lost in the sun and sand of Jamaica, and I appreciated the interesting dynamics between couples. While I didn’t enjoy this one as much as These Girls, it was a fun read.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1451673515 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review