Rip Tide book coverA Summer of Second Chances

Author: Colleen McKeegan

The old saying goes that you can’t step in the same river twice. But what if you can? What if the powerful, untamed, tragic longings of first love could be captured again? What if you could have what you always wanted? What if you could finally catch the one that got away?

It’s been fifteen years since Kimmy Devine left her beach hometown in South Jersey to go to college and then pursue a successful financial career. She brokered billion-dollar deals; she made a name for herself. But in Kimmy’s heart, she always knew that she was running away from that final summer in high school, from all that betrayal, from the rumors. Now, she’s back, having quit her career and returned to run her ailing father’s hardware store. Is it time for a second chance, or will the residents of this town continue to make her pay for that final, wild year?

Meanwhile, Kimmy’s younger sister, Erin, feels sidelined. She’s embroiled in a messy divorce after numerous failed attempts at starting a family. She’s running the family business for her ailing father, but it’s Kimmy he wants. Erin is, after all, the dumb one. The one who was never good enough. And her second chances – they’re messy too. They’ll break one family in hopes of making another, and her passion wars with her sense of guilt and with her memories.

Together, the sisters dance around one another, around those hard times, around their love and their hatred. The next morning after the big welcome back party, there’s a body. Once again, the town has clustered around the Devines, but this time, the full story might come out.

Personally, I’m more of a horror/mystery girl, and Rip Tide veers awfully close to romance, yet I found myself drunk with the emotion and evocation of the narrative, that teenage sense of earth-shattering longing. I’m also not usually one for cheating narratives, but here the author avoids the usual traps of romanticizing or condemning. Instead, she tells a story, one that falls somewhere in the grey zone of youth, infatuation, and the helpless feelings of a young girl who wants to be wanted. It’s hard to resist. It’s a siren song and the shores are littered with the dead, but we must respond.

It’s hard to fully explain what appealed to me so much here. Everything about this book, from the teenager ragers to the messy adult romances, is directly opposite my usual literary style and the way I live my own life. Yet . . . Kimmy and Erin demand empathy, and something about how they tell their stories is just universal. You care. You’re enmeshed in the gossip, hating the players who shatter our girls’ hearts and self-worth, and thinking about the meaning of self esteem in romance. Perhaps the magic here is capturing that feeling of nostalgic obsession while also realistically showing where it inevitably ends – lies, broken lives, broken hearts, older, wiser women with scars on their hearts and in their minds. What’s not to love?

Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

Despite ALL the feels, there is one bit of logic that hounded me throughout this story. Is it likely that Kimmy, after fifteen years away from a town that hurt her so deeply, would return, giving up a world-renowned mega career (and the big bucks it entails) to run a hardware store for her father, especially when her sister remains in the town and can handle the store? It’s an unlikely fabrication, one that never feels natural, but I was so into the emotion of the narrative, that I forcefully ignored the implausible excuse to tie Kimmy into her past and force her to face her demons.

The only significant fly in the proverbial ointment is the ending. I took an entire star off what was otherwise a five-star read because of the epilogue. Many of the chapters end with a weird exchange, a letter between mother and daughters (or at least, that’s what my confused Googling revealed). It doesn’t fit, and the epilogue goes back to this failed motif to end the book. We have an entirely different voice, one unpolished, unrealistic, preachy, and trite. This voice, in a few short pages, ruins the perfect, poignant, painful ending with an unnecessary and ridiculous twist and a bit of sermonizing that this powerful narrative didn’t need. We got the point. We felt it. We don’t need it explained, and we don’t need a random side story to explain away everything that happened. It was organic, and it should have been left that way.

But still, even if it’s not your normal read, pick up Rip Tide and let the narrative cadence, that sorrow and poignant beauty, drown you; and be sure to skip reading that epilogue.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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