The Rumor: A Novel
Small towns are known for their residents being privy to everyone's business, and this is especially true in this novel set in Nantucket. Though an island and more than a town, rumor mills abound, and no one is exempt from idle or malicious gossip.
Grace and Eddie Pancik are living the good life. Coming from a hardscrabble life in the poor part of New Bedford, Eddie is a successful realtor and contractor. Grace, who supplies organic eggs from chickens she names after prior First Ladies, loves her lavish three-acre homestead with grounds sure to make anyone jealous. They are parents to sixteen-year-old twin daughters, Allegra and Hope. The girls face the usual adolescent angst, though Allegra is more willful than Hope, who is smart and obedient.
Author Madeline King is Grace's best friend. Her husband Trevor Llewellyn pilots small commuter planes and their teenage son Brick is crazy in love with Allegra, who unknown to him is cheating on him with Ian Coburn, a college boy.
Commissioned to pen another novel, Madeline's mind is blank. Bills are due, yet she cannot come up with a satisfying plot. She uses her advance to lease a small apartment in town to attain a quiet space to write.
While Madeline frets over her current dilemma, Grace confides in her about her feelings for her landscape architect, Benton Coe. She feels neglected by Eddie, who lives only for his work, and her daughters do not want to bother with her.
Grace's attraction quickly turns into reality and Madeline, pressured by her agent and editor to produce something, pens an allegedly fictitious novel using Grace's confidences. She knows it's wrong and realizes she could lose Grace's friendship, yet she needs to come up with something.
Meanwhile, Eddie gets into a bad situation. He hasn't sold a property in months, and his creditors are looking for payment for the new high-priced homes he is building. In a panic, Eddie falls into an illegal trap which could prove disastrous for him and his family.
All hell breaks loose after Allegra is found with Ian, sitting on his car in their underwear, him with a bottle of whiskey between his legs and her smoking a joint. Madeline is furious with Allegra for breaking her son's heart and takes out her rage on Grace.
All the while, she continues to write about Grace's indiscretions and, while at a school ballgame, one of the town's biggest gossip reads some of her manuscript, causing rumors to flourish with accusations flying.
Trevor accosts Madeline about her relationship with Eddie in the following:
"You're having a hard time with the new novel?" Trevor said. "That's not what I heard. I heard your new novel is all about this couple who is having some super hot extramarital affair."
"Who told you that?" Madeline said...
"It doesn't really matter who told me that," Trevor said. "The rumor is out there, Madeline. People are saying that you and Eddie are having an affair, and that this is the fuel for your super sexy new novel."
"It's fiction!" Madeline said. "I write fiction. The problem is that nobody wants fiction anymore. . . . [This] is made up! It is the purest of fiction! I made up a story to entertain my readers!"
Rumor depicts how easily residents of a small community, for want of better things to do, love to spread tales, which gets blown out of proportion. Can these rumors hinder the closeness Grace and Madeline share, or will they irrevocably destroy it?
Hildebrand offers a riveting plot with charming characters along with colorful and apt descriptions of Nantucket.