Author: Emily Madden
Debut author Emily Madden does more than just tug on the heartstrings in Summers with Juliette, there are moments I think she managed to rip it out and stomp on it.
Summers with Juliette is a beautiful story of small towns, friendship, missed chances, scandal, redemption and new beginnings. It is told from three different perspectives so the shift in point of view gives us an in-depth look into the characters and we get to know them in a way you simply couldn’t from anyone else’s perspective.
Juliette Cole is descended from the founding fathers of small town Ellesmere on the New South Wales coast not too far from Coffs Harbour. She inherited the local bookshop from her grandmother and has expanded it into a bookshop cafe, taking over the property next door. Juliette is the centrepiece of the story but we learn a lot about her friends and her town throughout the book.
Teenaged best friends make a pinkie swear on a coastal cliff at the end of a summer that if ever one of them was in need and called the three of them would be there for each other; almost 20 years later Juliette calls them back to Ellesmere to honour their promise.
Anna Kendall is also descended from the founding fathers of Ellesmere and she grew up in the town. Unfortunately a few years after the pinkie promise Anna’s father was caught up in a scandal that saw him disappear leaving Anna and her mother to be run out of town. Anna has never been back, and she never intended to. Juliette has needed her in the past and Anna always found a reason not to return; this time Juliette called in the promise and she has to go back.
Sera DiMaggio spent her summers in Ellesmere growing up, until the year of the scandal. She is an Australian soap star with a long running character on an iconic soap. She keeps her true self hidden behind her makeup armour. Sera has kept in touch with Juliette but not spoken to Anna in years. The call from Juliette sees her make arrangements for leave from the soap so she can be there for Juliette.
There is a lot going on in Summers with Juliette and it all tied in beautifully. Juliette called Anna and Sera home to spend one last summer with her before she loses her battle with ovarian cancer. Anna and Sera may not be on speaking terms anymore but they were once the best of friends and they soon realise that working together may be the only way to give Juliette the will to fight.
I needed the tissues a few times throughout this one and my heart broke for Juliette. I have to admit it was not what I was expecting, there were times were I thought she would have a change of heart and get a happily ever after but she didn’t.
Juliette was the peacekeeper in the town and a brilliant mediator, as had always been the way with the Cole family, and her last summer with Anna and Sera was a touching demonstration of that as she brought the girls back together to rekindle their friendship and work through their past hurts.
The main story is Juliette, Anna and Sera but no story would be complete without at least a hint of romance; so there are men on the scene as well – gorgeous men of course. Mayor Patrick Shepherd who moved to Ellesmere from Coffs Harbour, Jack Harper the relative newcomer to town from Sydney and the elusive Noah.
Juliette is a caring and wonderful woman, loved by everyone in town but carrying more than her fair share of heartache. Anna and Sera are both carrying excess baggage that see them creating brick barriers around themselves so that no-one can get close, so that no-one can hurt them.
I loved Summers with Juliette, it was poignant and beautiful demonstrating the strength of the bonds of friendship. If you make a vow to your best friends that you will be there then you will be there. Anna worded the vow and then moved on to become a contractual lawyer but she had the most trouble returning to the town that shunned her and ran her out. She was worried about the reception she would receive, and it turns out she was right to be worried. The small town memory remembers the scandal and is prepared to shun her again.
I think the men being new additions to town, and the arrival of a few others, is a great illustrator of how welcoming the small town can be. Jack was embraced from the beginning and fast felt like he’d found home; okay he was still nicknamed cityslicker but it was done goodnaturedly. It is a sharp contrast to the treatment Anna recieves on her return.
If you love tales of the bonds of lifelong friendship read Summers with Juliette, you won’t regret it. It shows the importance of making the most of your time and your friends because we never know what tomorrow will bring.
Summers with Juliette is book #70 for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2016.
20 of our lucky readers will be reading Summers with Juliette so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.