The High Season is Judy Blundell's first work of fiction for adults, following on the success of her 2008 National Book Award for Young People for What I Saw and How I Lied. The story follows Ruth Beamish, her sort-of-but-not-officially ex-husband, and their daughter Jem, through a summer season on a small island off the Hamptons called North Fork. The Beamish family has a beautiful perfect summer home on the Fork, but in order to afford the upkeep on the house, they have to rent it out every summer while they move to less-than-perfect accommodations. This summer, their renter is a socialite named Adeline Clay. At first, Clay and her stepson Lucas staying at the house seems like the answer to a prayer. They pay for the entire summer up front and Ruth enjoys the solvency, but as the summer goes on, not all is well on North Fork. Ruth begins to face bitter battles at work, her daughter is being secretive about a new boy in her life, and her once-friendly ex-husband is spending a lot of time with Adeline when Ruth needs him. What is going on here? Is she losing everything that matters to her to this interloper from the city? She already gave up her house, what else will she lose to Adeline? And can someone as average as Ruth defy someone as powerful as Adeline and survive unscathed?
This was a beautifully written story about friendship, love, and the curve balls life can throw our way. At the heart of the story is Ruth, affectionately called Ruthie, who finds herself at the mercy of circumstances that she cannot control and certainly does not deserve. This story had me ready to cry at a moment's notice. The story alternates between Ruthie and several other characters on the island for the summer, including her daughter Jem and her co-worker Doe. Jem is a teenaged girl learning her own lessons about love and friendship and she will have a lot of growing up to do as the summer progresses. Doe, real name Dora, is an aspiring social-climber who is willing to cross ethical lines to pull herself up in the world. She comes to have a hand in almost every storyline in the book, and despite her less than true north moral compass, you come to root for all of the underdogs in this story, and she is one of the best.
The High Season has everything you could want in a summer release: drama, love, betrayal, high society, and rogue inflatables. Stick with it as the story builds in complexity, and you will be rewarded with an extremely satisfying conclusion.