Hello, Summer

Conley Hawkins is trying to discreetly sneak out of her goodbye party at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when her sister texts her an article from Bloomberg: Intelligentsia, the new-media DC publication where she’d accepted a job, has, without prior notice, ceased to exist, as its primary investor pulled his support.

So as she cuts the cake with an old print tool, she worries about her future. She can’t bear to tell her assembled associates — their pity would be too much to bear. She can’t return to her apartment, because it’s already been subleased. And she certainly can’t head to DC, where Intelligentsia was based, to job-hunt in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. So she aims south for Silver Bay, the tiny Florida town where she grew up, and where her sister, Grayson, runs the Silver Bay Beacon, which their family has owned for a century.

Not long after arriving she and an old friend come upon an overturned SUV, where the unidentified passenger is nearly or already dead. Conley discovers it was the area’s congressman, C. Symmes Robinette, who’d been suffering from terminal cancer. True to her big-city journalistic training, she wants to go all-in for an investigative report on the shady House representative, but is repeatedly urged to hold back by her grandmother, sister, and an old friend, Sean Kelly (better known as Skelly).

While she gathers info, she also has to deal with the declining abilities of G’mama, who consistently defies Grayson’s request to drink less (“Before you go, dear, fix me another sunsetter, would you? That last one tasted awfully light on the vodka”), and why the family’s longtime housekeeper and cook, Winnie, spent nearly two years in prison (“When Robinette came down the stage, for all his shaking hands and kissing babies bullcrap, I crept up right next to him … I just stuck my hand down in my pocketbook, got a big old handful of ashes, and flung ‘em right in Robinette’s face” at the VA Center groundbreaking). The family beach house, the Dunes, needs repair and updating, and Skelly is clearly in love with the commitment-phobic Conley (“Is this the part where I tell you that I’ve been here all along, trying to convince myself I could somehow be happy with somebody else?”). Plus the Beacon is broke and needs a few more subscribers and a lot more advertisers. Not to mention, she’s still angry at her long-gone mother for deserting the family and haunted by her father’s death.

Mary Kay Andrews has turned out yet another summertime novel that rises above the condescending chick-lit label. Conley is a strong female character who can take care of herself, but accepts help when she needs it. Just another reason to say Hello, Summer.

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