This weekend I read the story of us, the first book from my summer list, in the summeriest of places, up on Georgian Bay. It felt like a good cottage book: long enough to sink into for at least a day, descriptive, great sense of place, images that linger as you swing in the hammock or stretch out on your towel with a swim in the back of your mind.
The story takes place over one week at a beach house, where Cricket’s mom is finally planning to get married after a series of almost weddings. The whole family comes together at Bluff House for what should be a perfect celebration of love. It’s not so easy for Cricket, however, because she has left behind her longtime boyfriend Janssen after she did something she wishes she could undo. She’s trying to work it out, but she struggles to know what she should do now. The week brings out secrets and worries and desires that complicate the situation with plenty of drama and doubt. Times are changing, and Cricket has never been good at change.
I’d say this one has all the trademark Deb Caletti elements: an articulate and reflective main character, secondary characters so interesting you think they deserve their own novels, humour that feels exactly true to life, sweet, non-drippy romance, and many lines about how things are that are so wise they make you wonder if you should create a little book of wisdom for life entirely made up of sentences Deb Caletti wrote. This is feel good fiction that isn’t insulting to an intelligent reader – teen or grown-up.
One aspect of the book I loved most, because I wasn’t expecting it to be so prominent, were all of the parts where Cricket writes to Janssen about Jupiter, her dog, and the awesomeness of dogs in general. Dog love is a big part of this story, how it’s the same and different from people love, what it can teach us, and how it’s pretty much the best thing going. If you’re a dog person, you’ll be reaching for the tissues, guaranteed.
There were moments when I wondered if there was too much crazyness going on with all of the family drama. At times it reminded me of one of those romantic drama/comedy movies when a cast of kooky relatives with complicated lives and secrets galore come together for a weekend at the cabin and things build to the breaking point when it seems like everybody is going to lose it, but then it’s okay and they come together and go on being neurotic but content. It’s a bit hard to keep track of it all as it’s happening, but it’s still kind of fun to get caught up in. As I write this though, I realize that I think the book succeeds brilliantly at this kind of story. It could easily be a movie.
I think that one of the strengths of Deb Caletti’s books is how she offers readers so many opportunities to connect to her characters and stories. At some point, you will see yourself in her books. We all flounder. We all want to find love and aren’t always sure when it’s there right in front of us. Some of us are lucky and have people who keep us from going over to the crazy side, and dogs who know exactly when a canine chin resting on your knee is exactly what you need. If you’re after a book that will make you grateful for the perfect parts of your imperfect life, I’d say the story of us is just right.
the story of us is published by Simon Pulse.