A tremendously appealing and mordantly funny novel about friendship, compassion, and social privilege, Summer People tells the story of Nathan Empson, a young college dropout and aspiring graphic novelist who has just accepted the most unusual job of his life.
In exchange for serving as a summer “caretaker” for Ellen Broderick, the eccentric matriarch of Brightonfield Cove, Maine, Nathan will earn a generous salary and gain access to one of the last bastions of old New England wealth—an exclusive coastal community the likes of which he has never known.
It seems at first like easy money: accompanying Ellen to the immaculate Alnombak Golf and Tennis Club, or joining her for an evening of cocktails and conversation at a neighbor’s mansion overlooking the anchored yachts of Albans Bay. But not everyone in the community is welcoming—or even civil—to someone they regard as an interloper. So Nathan finds solace in the companionship of a philosophical, ex-punk Episcopalian pastor, and the alluring nanny of the pastor’s children, a feisty, dark-eyed beauty named Leah.
Nathan invites Leah for walks and late-night picnics on the beach, yet as his relationship with her deepens, he finds it difficult to ignore his employer’s unexpectedly unnerving behavior. With each escalating mishap, a new aspect of Ellen’s colorful past comes to light, exposing the secret lives of her old friends, flames, and enemies, as well as the story behind a scandalous incident Nathan must prevent her from repeating—however inept his efforts may be.
In this big-hearted, immensely satisfying debut novel, Nathan must contend with competitors for Leah’s affection and with an increasing suspicion that Ellen needs more help than he can provide. But sounding the alarm over Ellen’s condition would mean leaving her beachside home, his summer job, and the romance that may well change his life.