REVIEW: NELL, BY NANCY THAYER

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Nell and Marlow St. John had been a golden couple: he, a famous director, and she, a talented actress. Could their life get any better? But then the children came along. First, Jeremy, and two years later, Hannah.

Life gradually changed for them, and then, unexpectedly, Marlow left Nell for her best friend Charlotte. In some ways, she felt more betrayed by Charlotte than she did by Marlow.

Five years later, Nell is still alone, struggling financially, working in a high end boutique in Cambridge, and moving from one lover to another, never seeming to find The One. She just wants to love someone, and have him love her in return. Is that too much to ask?

When Nell’s boss Elizabeth asks her to manage the boutique on Nantucket for the summer, it seems impossible, but when Marlow agrees to take the children for two months, Nell sighs with relief.

Finding her groove on the island comes quickly, and almost immediately, she meets Andy Martindale. They quickly connect and he seems to be everything Nell has been looking for.

But why, after almost three months on the island, spending every free moment with him, has Andy not talked about a future together? Could her boss’s warnings have been true? That Andy is unable to make a commitment?

Nell is a very introspective tale narrated by the MC, a divorced woman struggling with single parenting, supporting herself, and trying to find love again. The story is set in New England, mainly in Arlington, Cambridge, and Nantucket, sometime in the 1980s. The themes are familiar, but Nell’s voice is very appealing. She could seem a bit narcissistic, focused on her issues constantly, but remember that this was set in a time before social networking, online groups, and all that those connections can bring. Isolation is more complete in such an era, and instead of writing a blog, a woman like Nell is forced to introspection during her time alone.

Which is why this story engaged me. Nell’s dilemma is an age old one, not easily corrected, and without the connections most of us take for granted these days. As I headed toward the book’s end, I suspected that Nell’s solution would probably be one of acceptance. And living in the moment rather than projecting into the future. But could there be surprises ahead?

While the book was not my favorite by this author, it had the ingredients I have come to count on: delving into familiar issues, while showing the reader what the life of the characters looks like, from all the messy details of daily life to the flaws and foibles that make us able to relate to them. A little predictable, but comforting, this one earned 4 stars.

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