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The Guest Book

By: Sarah Blake


Imprint: Flatiron Books

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781250110251

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Instant New York Times Bestseller"The Guest Book is monumental in a way that few novels dare attempt." --The Washington PostThe thought-provoking new novel by New York Times bestselling author Sarah BlakeA lifetime of secrets. A history untold.No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty's defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir.In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons' circle. One captures the attention of Kitty's daughter, while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn't have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton's mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother's and grandparents' history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake's triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.
While the book offers a glimpse into the lives of the Miltons, it also reveals much about America – a place of such wildly disparate experiences, a place with its own secrets buried beneath a burnished image.... Some readers might find it difficult to garner sympathy for the Miltons, buffered as they are by wealth and privilege. Instead, they might want to look upon the book as a timely metaphor for the American story. The novel offers insight into a country with a complicated history of its own, one of capitalism built upon corruption, of privilege built upon oppression.
—Christian Science Monitor
Blake's ability to juggle each storyline and the complex characters within them richened the story. Through these multiple points of view, each character picked the story up, turned it a bit, and kept the momentum churning forward. But all paths eventually converged together for a satisfying ending. That said, often I found the prose to be a little flowery for my taste.... While the author's command of her craft is never in doubt, personally I could have enjoyed the book more easily if some of the overly descriptive phrases had been edited out. However, the tapestry of the story is woven tightly despite the massive undertaking to do justice to each of the time periods. But perhaps the most impressive of all is how Blake managed to convey weighty themes as undercurrents throughout the story without being heavy-handed --- allowing readers to find themselves through each character's perception of their reality.... THE GUEST BOOK delivers a beautiful family story while depositing seeds of questions within each person who turns its pages. Will we repeat the mistakes of silent majorities in our past? Or create a future where human life is valued regardless of position? This novel will delight book clubs everywhere and create conversations that shouldn't be missed.
“The Guest Book” offers an exhaustive study of Brahmin pain, the suffering stoically endured by that class of people who ask each other, “Where do you summer?” It's part of a long, distinguished line of beautiful costume dramas that allow us good liberals to luxuriate in the silken folds of privilege while reassuring ourselves that such privilege is doomed.... The climatic scene of “The Guest Book” is a disastrous party described in such granular detail that it seems to take place in real time, but it's mesmerizing rather than tedious because Blake can write with the dramatic heft of Arthur Miller.... Perhaps it's appropriate that “The Guest Book” feels as conflicted about its values as several generations of Miltons do — or maybe I'm just trying to stabilize my feelings toward this frustrating novel. There's no denying that Blake writes powerfully about these people. The early parts are flawlessly decorated with period detail and freighted with all the weightiest subjects of the era, including the Holocaust, civil rights and freedom of expression. Indeed, “The Guest Book” is monumental in a way that few novels dare attempt. But is the loss of a $3.5 million vacation home a relevant subject for a great American novel at this moment? Or does the whole lyrical enterprise feel overwrought, even precious?
—Washington Post
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