Authors: Elin Hilderbrand
Let me start with a story. As many of you know, I write two novels a year and I’m the mother of three. I also do over forty speaking engagements and book signings per year. Back in October 2019, I was on tour promoting
What Happens in Paradise.
It was a “short tour”—nine events in eight days. I had two events to do in Houston on the same day, the first of which was an eight a.m. talk to a book group in a private home. I arrived in Houston from St. Louis at one in the morning, and I’m not going to lie: I considered canceling, not only because I wanted to sleep but because, while I was on that tour, I was also finishing this book. I texted the organizer of the book group and she told me that there were two women who were driving to Houston from Rockport, Texas—nearly four hours away—just to see me. Now, listen, I’m neither a saint nor a hero, but on hearing this, I decided I couldn’t cancel.
The women’s names were Sabina Diebel and Gloria Rodriguez. Sabina Diebel was an RN hospice case manager. When I spoke to her, she told me that she’d had to take time off work to come to the book group but that her supervisor had been excited for her to “fill her cup.” Hospice care is so emotionally draining that it’s important for caregivers to do the things in their free time that bring them joy. All of this went immediately into the book, as you know. Thank you, Sabina, and thank you, Gloria, for making the drive. The book is better because of you.
To all of my readers who have made sacrifices to meet me in person—driving long distances (one man in St. Louis drove his mother five hours to see me!) and getting babysitters and missing other commitments—thank you. I’m humbled and honored. Meeting you is what fills
I’ll do things a little backward for this book and thank my children next. So much of this novel is about parenting, and I used my sons, Maxx and Dawson Cunningham, as models for Link, and my daughter, Shelby Cunningham, as the inspiration for Bess. Years ago, Maxx actually did hit three consecutive home runs in Cooperstown after a mediocre Little League career at the plate. I remember saying at the time, “This is such a great story. I should put it in a book, but no one would ever believe it.” Maxx, Dawson, and Shelby are now old—two of them adults—and they are my best friends (or two of the three of them are on any given day!). You guys: I love you. Thank you for being patient with the demands of my career—I’m trying to make you as proud of me as I am of the three of you.
This novel owes an enormous debt to the playwright Bernard Slade, who died on the day I completed the first draft. His play
Same Time, Next Year,
beloved by so many, is this book’s emotional touchstone.
Thank you to West Riggs who, as ever, served as my sailing consultant, and also to Donna Kelly from the Newport Ladies Book Group for the racer-cruiser!
A shout-out to the truly inspirational cookbook author Sarah Leah Chase, whose dishes appear throughout this novel. She has been my culinary guiding light since I took a cooking class with her in 1995. Her
Nantucket Open-House Cookbook
is everything I love about my island on a hand-painted platter.
This is the last novel I’ll be doing with my brilliant editor Reagan Arthur. (She recently became the publisher at Alfred A. Knopf.) Although I will miss Reagan beyond anyone’s comprehension, I know I will be fine, because over the course of the twenty books I did with her, Reagan taught me to believe in myself. She always said, “You make it look easy.” Ha! No, it was never easy, but it was
—and fulfilling and meaningful—because I had Reagan Arthur’s sensibility and clear-eyed intelligence to guide me.
To my agents, Michael Carlisle and David Forrer of InkWell Management: Thank you for taking such good care of me. You are the finest in the business and I love you forever.
To all of my beloveds at Little, Brown: Mario Pulice, Ashley Marudas, Craig Young, Karen Torres, Terry Adams, Michael Pietsch, Brandon Kelley, and my remarkable publicist, Katharine Myers—thank you for all the hours you dedicate to my novels and for making the ride so much fun. Copyediting is not a glamorous job but it is a vital one, and a big, gooey thank-you with hugs and rainbows goes to Jayne Yaffe Kemp and Tracy Roe (they may edit this out later, who knows).
And to my home team. What would life be without you? Thank you to Rebecca Bartlett, Wendy Rouillard, Wendy Hudson, Debbie Briggs (who named nearly every character in this book; it’s her superpower), Chuck and Margie Marino, Liz and Beau Almodobar, “the Beehive”—Linda Holliday, Sue Decoste, Melissa Long, Jeannie Esti (who gave me the Triscuit line and didn’t ask for a commission), Deb Ramsdell, Deb Gfeller, and my darling Katie Norton, who defied Dunbar’s number—Manda Riggs, David Rattner and Andrew Law, Evelyn and Matthew MacEachern, Holly and Marty McGowan, Helaina Jones, Heidi Holdgate, Kristen Holdgate, Shelly and Roy Weedon, John and Martha Sargent, Jodi Picoult, Curtis Sittenfeld, Meg Mitchell Moore, and Sarah Dessen. And thank you to Michelle Birmingham, Ali Barone, and Christina Schwefel for giving me the best part of my day.
Thank you to my family: Sally Hilderbrand, Eric and Lisa Hilderbrand, Randy and Steph Osteen, Douglas and Jennifer Hilderbrand, Todd Thorpe, and the one person I would never want to live this life without—you guessed it, my sister and very best friend, Heather Osteen Thorpe. Everyone should have a Heather.
My family lost a special woman this year in Judith Hilderbrand Thurman, my stepmother, who introduced me to the beaches of Cape Cod over forty years ago. Like Kitty Blessing, Judy had a lot of rules, as my siblings will confirm, and all of them have served us well. The loss is immeasurable; her legacy will last for generations.
Thank you, Timothy Field. There’s too much to say here; just please know I’m grateful for you every day.
Like Mallory, I moved to Nantucket in the summer of 1993, and I too came from New York City, although under vastly different circumstances. As I enter my twenty-eighth summer here, I would like to thank Nantucket for being such a consistently alluring muse. I am at peace only when I’m home.
In closing, I would like to say a few words about the novelist Dorothea Benton Frank, whom the world lost in September 2019. Writing is, by its nature, a solitary job, and it took me a long time to become friends with other authors. I now enjoy friendships with Nancy Thayer, Adriana Trigiani, Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, Jamie Brenner, and Beatriz Williams, among others. Dottie and I were the best of friends. I loved her instantly and completely. She was not only a charming and brilliant novelist but also the craziest, funniest, most delightful human being—generous and kind and wickedly irreverent. Losing her was a stunning blow and I feel it every single day. If you haven’t read a Dorothea Benton Frank novel, I implore you to do it now. Her last novel,
was my favorite among a host of favorites. I send my love and my eternal devotion to her family—Peter, Will, Victoria. Dottie’s voice will live on forever, and it is with the humblest broken heart that I offer you this book in her memory. XO