Title: The Girls of August
Author: Anne Rivers Siddons
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: July 2014
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Literature
Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.
The Girls of August: Madison, Barbara and Rachel. Teddy tried to force his new and dazzling wife on the Girls of August. The Colleton house was theirs for the first summer, and it was the standard for which they measured all other beach houses against. When Teddy’s marriage collapses, and his wife takes back her beautiful Colleton house, the Girls only mourn the house. Now the Girls never stayed at the same one more than once, always moving about to a new locale.
A silly name for four women who, after a decade and a half of never missing an August together, were approaching middle age, fretting over crow’s feet, and reaching for skin cream.
The girls met their husbands in medical school, and ever since the seven formed a close-knit little family. Madison married Mac, who reads her poetry at night. Barbara married Hugh and they had five kids. Rachel married Oliver and also had a handful of kids, and then Teddy remarries. The Girls of August have found their fourth member: Melinda. She completed the Girls of August. She, like Madison, could not have a baby. That is one thing the two share, a love and a want so great for a child of their own.
The last house we shared – Melinda’s final August – where we gazed at the calm Gulf and made promises to each other that we’d probably never, ever be able to keep…
Everything changes after Melinda. There are no more August summer getaways for the Girls. It’s as if Melinda was the only thread holding them together, their grief too great, not to mention their anger. They don’t see Melinda’s death as a mere accident…
Then, three years later, the Girls of August are invited to Tiger Island – an island that Madison’s husband Mac grew up on and knows well, despite no longer having a house on the island. When the trip comes up, and the entire ride to send off the Girls, Mac acts suspiciously, as if he doesn’t want anyone on the island to know he’s back. But Mac isn’t the only one who has brought secrets along with them on this trip. In fact, all of them but Madison have.
I feared that life was changing so quickly that none of us really knew the others anymore.
Instead of their usual one week vacation, they are forced to stay for two since the ferryman is out of town…and it is a vacation that none of the Girls think Teddy’s new wife, blonde bimbo Baby, will survive.
Their vacation is one with many ups and downs, and Baby was full of surprises for the Girls of August. The entire trip to Tiger Island and the stay there I felt horrible for the way that the Girls treated Baby, particularly Rachel – and even Barbara. They were so cruel and rude to her the entire time. It’s no wonder she kept wandering off on her own.
During one of Baby’s excursions, things go terribly wrong at the house. Each incident is greater and more dangerous than the last, and they can’t help but accuse the one person who has disappeared.
Baby’s character is one of many contrasts and facets. She’s like an onion that the Girls – particularly Madison – must peel back layer by layer. She says such random things at times that bring such a sadness to Madison. Two seconds later, she’s acting crazy, doing cartwheels and calling all the girls “mother.”
Things all come to a head one night, and everything comes out in the open. It is the moment in the book when all of the characters are the most vulnerable, emotions raging like the storm around them.
These Girls – the Girls of August – remind me of a woman I used to work with, originally from the Seattle area. Sweet as can possibly be. She forged a bond with a few other women, all born in the same year. They call themselves Club 54 Girls and have been together longer than the Girls of August were, but while reading The Girls of August, told through Madison’s point of view, I couldn’t help but think of them, too.
In the end I was left wanting something more from this book. It did not satisfy the craving in me as a reader that the plot and characters built up.
I wonder if any children of this time know the cool, slimy, dreadful feeling of chicken shit between their toes?
Yes, Anne Rivers Siddons, yes I do. Very well, to my detriment. It is indeed cool, slimy, and dreadful and all you can do is turn tail and run for the water hose.
*****About the Author*****
While at Auburn she wrote a column for the student newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman, that favored integration. The university administration attempted to suppress the column, and ultimately fired her, and the column garnered national attention. She later became a senior editor for Atlanta magazine. At the age of thirty she married Heyward Siddons, and she and her husband now live in Charleston, South Carolina, and spend summers in Maine.
Find the author: Goodreads