So maybe you can’t quite get time off for a real vacation, or maybe you can’t go to Cape Cod or Nantucket Island in real life. That doesn’t prevent you from experiencing nearly all the joys and quirks of going to the Cape in the summer (minus the sunburn and sand in your clothes): you can take out Elin Hilderbrand’s new book, The Identicals, and enjoy a virtual trip, complete with all the vivid details that make a good summer read.
People are always fascinated by twins, the notion of two people who are physically identical or nearly so, and when those twins turn out to have very different personalities, that just makes them more fascinating (and there’s a classic trope of the Evil Twin, which has been a fixture of soap operas and speculative fiction on television for ages). You start wondering about nature or nurture, and how much control we really have over our personalities and the way we deal with the world.
In The Identicals, not only do we have twin sisters, Harper and Tabitha, but we have (sort of) twin islands on which the women live, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (both of which Hilderbrand knows very well and describes in exquisite detail so you feel you can actually smell the salt water and hear the seabirds). Originally, Harper and Tabitha were best friends, doing everything together, but when their parents divorced, the girls were forced to separate, with Harper joining her father at his home on Martha’s Vineyard, and Tabitha staying with her mother on Nantucket. The two girls grow up differently: Harper is laid back and unambitious, sleeping around and taking jobs way beneath her education and abilities, whereas Tabitha is following in their fashion-designer mother’s footsteps, trying to keep her mother’s failing fashion boutique running while also dealing with her daughter, Ainsley, who’s every mother’s nightmare of a teenage daughter. Although the twins live on islands only 11 miles apart, they are estranged from each other until (there’s always an “until” in these kinds of books) their father dies and Harper has to contact her mother and sister (and run into her niece) again. And then over the course of the summer, Harper and Tabitha do what many sets of identical twins have done in the past (at least in books): they trade places, with Harper helping at their mother’s store and dealing with the rebellious Ainsley and Tabitha going to Martha’s Vineyard to deal with their father’s falling apart house and Harper’s falling apart reputation.
Family secrets, people who really do love each other even if they’re not always aware of it (and don’t always act as if they do), two separate and equally wonderful vacation spots, major and minor characters with minds and lives of their own, and Elin Hilderbrand’s bestselling knack for dialogue and description: come away to the islands off the Cape and start your summer right.