Growing up, we seldom had babysitters, let alone a full-time live-in nanny, so I was always fascinated when authors would weave stories of characters who grew up with nannies. I relived this fascination when I picked up Gilly Macmillan’s newest book, The Nanny. This book tells the story of one nanny’s power over an entire family and their struggle to find out the truth.
The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan drops readers right into the world of Jocelyn Holt. Told in alternating points of view, readers learn about the lives of Jocelyn Holt and her family as Jocelyn makes the trip back home. Having to return to the Lake Hall estate after the death of her husband, Jo is not happy to be dropped back into a life that doesn’t seem to have changed since she left. Her childhood wasn’t all that bad, that is before nanny Hannah left. Hannah and Jo were inseparable up until the summer of 1988 when Hannah left without a trace, leaving seven-year-old Jocelyn devastated and with no one to confide in.
Left with no answers as to where Hannah went, Jocelyn’s childhood at Lake Hall with her parents became more troubled. She grew up bitter and distant towards her parents, mostly to her mother, whom she blamed for Hannah’s abrupt departure. As soon as she was able to, Jo left Lake Hall and her parents’ stuffy aristocratic life behind.
Thirty years later, Jo finds herself back at Lake Hall with her young daughter in tow after the sudden and unexpected death of her husband. With nowhere else to turn, Jo is forced to confront and rebuild the troubled relationship she has with her mother. When Jo’s daughter and her mother start growing closer, she’s unsure whether or not this is a good thing. Right as the three reach a somewhat truce, human remains are found in a lake on the Lake Hall estate which makes Jo question if the events that she remembers from her childhood are actually true.
In the aftermath of this shocking discovery, an unexpected visitor shows up at Lake Hall. Jo and her mother are left reeling yet again as the identity of this visitor is revealed to be someone it can’t possibly be. Not finding any satisfactory answers, Jo digs into her past to figure out the truth surrounding her nanny’s disappearance, who her nanny really was, and what her mother has been hiding for over thirty years.
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Making friends as an adult is difficult. Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell talk about the delicate balance between friends and enemies, as well as the different lengths that people are willing to do to in order to make friends in their newest book, That’s What Frenemies Are For. Hidden motives abound for all in this novel that grabs you by your private school, Manhattan socialite education and refuses to let go.
That’s What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell talks about how easily influence and cache in different groups can change as readers follow the life of a Manhattan socialite who finds the next biggest craze in the form of a peppy spin instructor and an underperforming fitness studio. Her decision to rehabilitate the studio and the instructor in order to impress her friends and get back her social cache proves to turn into more than she can handle.
Julia Summers has it all: two children who love her, an adoring husband with a successful job, an apartment in the city, and a house in the Hamptons. Having finally made it to the top of her friend group, Julia influences almost everything the group does. Nothing happens without her approval or without her knowing about it. As a result, Julia is stunned when she finds others in her friend group suddenly vying for her position of power and cutting her out of decisions. When everyone starts to head to the Hamptons for the summer, Julia’s family is stuck in the city when catastrophe hits their Hamptons’ house.
Stuck in the city for the summer, Julia is desperate to reinvent herself before her friends come back. Looking for the newest fad, Julia finds Flame. Flame is the biggest new elite fitness craze that has the possibility to be even better if they just changed a few things. While going to Flame, Julia takes classes from Tatum, a giggly, energetic instructor who Julia decides to transform in the guise of improving Flame’s profit margin and helping to get the word out about the business.
Julia takes on the task to overhaul Flame and Tatum, but in a sneaky way that she hopes isn’t completely obvious to everyone around her. Things slowly start to spiral out of Julia’s control when she discovers that Tatum isn’t as docile as she initially thought. Julia’s comeback doesn’t go as expected and Tatum starts to take over everything herself.
With Julia’s relationships with her friends in turmoil, Julia turns to her family for comfort. Much to her surprise, her husband’s business goes belly up in a most unexpected way. Left with almost no support system and friends who have completely turned their backs on her, Julia has to rethink everything that she had previously held so dear. What does she really want out of life? What is most important to her? Is her perfect life worth it?
Books that deal with heartbreak seem to be my go-to listen lately. Maybe that’s just because I know the plot will be interesting and engaging, but nevertheless, I find myself gravitating towards heart-squeezing family dramas. The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee is full of devastating consequences, yet heartwarming relationships that make you yearn for each character’s eventual happiness.
The Expatriates is the inter-woven tale of three American women living in Hong Kong. Each woman is a part of the same very small expat community. Their reasons for coming to Hong Kong as well as their personal and professional lives may be different, but the situations that they find themselves in all become intertwined rather quickly, sometimes without them even realizing it. (I was constantly reminded of the idea that we are only separated from someone else by six degrees of separation throughout this book. And also by the fact that the smallest action can change our lives so drastically.)
Mercy is a young Korean American who finds herself in Hong King after her graduation from Columbia. She has moved to Hong Kong looking for a change from the normal and the promise of a more lucrative job. Marcy is haunted by a terrible accident that happened to her recently. Hilary is a housewife whose marriage is on the rocks. She gave up the bulk of her career to follow her husband, David, to Hong Kong, so he could further his career. Hilary finds herself thinking over and over about her inability to have a child and how if she was only able to conceive, her marriage problems would evaporate. Margaret is a married mother of three who is forced to deal with a shattering loss that has destroyed her life and her family. She is having to find a new normal, something she must survive even if she isn’t quiet sure how to do so.
Mercy, Hilary, and Margaret soon find their lives to be thoroughly enmeshed together in was neither of them expected. Each woman must deal with their own separate issues and struggles, but soon they fins that there are many common threads linking them together. Consequences run rampant through their lives, dictating their decisions, their lifestyles, and their relationships. This book was very moving and I found myself listening to it obsessively to try to figure out how their lives were going to unfold.
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