Tender moments add levity to Jennifer Dupee’s greatly appealing first novel. The story focuses on Larisa Pearl--pushing 40-years-old--who losses her job in Boston, breaks up with her boyfriend and learns that her 96-year-old aunt--her father’s sister; a spinster--has died and left her house, “Elmhurst,” to Larisa and her father. Larisa’s parents live in a New Hampshire retirement community, where her mother is battling dementia and her devoted father is lovingly committed to her daily care. This leaves Larisa to set off on her own to Elmhurst, located in the small seaside town of Kent Crossing, Mass. Elmhurst is in need of repair. Thus, she enlists the help of Jack Merrill--a disillusioned, married father of triplets, in his late 30s--the part-time caretaker of the estate. Larisa and Jack were friends who grew up together, spending memorable summers at Elmhurst.
While grappling with her mother’s deteriorating health and re-acquainting herself with the allure of small-town life, Larisa decides--on a lark--to try on a beautiful wedding gown displayed in the window of the local bridal shop. Unbeknownst to Larisa, the shop owner is one of her former teachers, now retired, who happily presumes Larisa is finally getting married. Not wanting to disappoint, Larisa gets roped into the assumption. This choice escalates in hard-won ways that challenge Larisa’s perceptions of happiness and love.
Dupee successfully combines the pull-and-tug of romance with family drama to deliver a more serious message about facing up to the often-harsh realities of life.
St. Martin’s Press, $26.99 Hardcover, 9781250271525, 304 pages
Publication Date: March 9, 2021