Erin Bryce and her best friend, Sharlene, count the day they start their wedding planning business as a very happy day. So much so that they name their company The Happiest Day to reflect the fulfillment of their long-held dream as well as their clients’ longing for a wedding celebration to match the exhilaration of being in love. As a bonus, the two women utilize their business to help Erin’s son Jordan and his fiancée, Sierra, plan a grand wedding.
But the two friends aren’t prepared for the cloud moving in to cover the sunny, successful start of their business. Erin’s father, who lives in a small coastal Oregon community with his brusque, downright odd second wife, Delores, develops a medical problem that puts him in the hospital. Erin responds by rushing from Southern California to her father’s—and oh, yeah, Delores’s—cottage by the sea.
What greets Erin when she arrives sends her tumbling down a bewildering path to a different kind of happiest day. Her journey tosses her through highs and lows of hurt and healing, betrayal and renewal, wrong assumptions righted, and the brightest future one could ever hope for. All just around the corner, at the cottage by the sea.
I've heard of people my age (early 40-50s) being called the "sandwich" generation--we are caring for our children and for aging parents. Unfortunately, after the "sandwich" years come the "goodbye" years. Our parents die and our kids move out and start families of their own. It is an expected part of life, but it doesn't mean we have to like it.
Cottage by the Sea is a short novel (only 248 pages) about Erin saying goodbye to her father. Her mother died years ago and sometime thereafter, her father married Delores and moved from California to Oregon, saying there was nothing left for him in California. Erin takes offense at that comment and blames the move on his new wife. She never visits until one day Delores calls to tell her that her father had a small stroke. She rushes up there only to find that the stroke was mild and that her father had mostly recovered. While charmed by the house, she is not charmed by Delores. Her father encourages her to visit again and to bring the family. Erin says she and her husband will one day, but that the kids are too big. She does not return until her father is dying and most of the book takes place during that process. During that process she learns to let go of him and of past hurts. She takes the time to enjoy life as it is instead of moving ahead at a break-neck speed. She learns that things are not always what they appear to be.
One think I liked about the book was that the heroine is my age. With a penchant for romance novels, all too often I spend my time reading about women half my age, going through things that I've been done with for years. Having spent part of last week visiting colleges with my daughter, I realize that my nest is going to start emptying soon. Having spent last weekend at my Dad's, I realize that's not going to last much longer either. While our society has gotten much more friendly to working moms that what it once was, I wonder how many requests for FMLA leave to care for a dying parent are met with raised eyebrows? While daycare for children is accessible, and most kids develop according to a predictable schedule, with dying parents, the timetable isn't so clear. Should you take off now, or wait a few weeks (or months)? Do you spend time with them while they are still able to appreciate your company (and maybe run out of leave, or money before the ends comes), or do you wait until the end may be only hours away?
The book is Christian fiction. As Erin spends the days caring for her father, away from her husband and her job, she has time to reflect on scripture and she does. Those who don't like religion in their books will find this one too religious to suit them. For those of faith, I think Erin's reactions are normal; death causes us to reflect on what is follow this world, and the slower pace of life in the cottage by the sea gives time for the reflection we often don't do as we rush from work to school to friends to the gym and then drop into the church on Sunday.
I'd like to thank the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy. I was not obligated to write a positive review but I'm pleased to give this book a B.
Other Books by Robin Jones Gunn which I have reviewed (click for review):
Sisterchicks Do the Hula
Sisterchicks Say Ooh-la-la
Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes