The Second Home: A Novel

Image of The Second Home: A Novel
Release Date: 
June 2, 2020
St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by: 

The Gordons of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, spend every summer at the century-old saltbox passed down from Ed Gordon's grandparents. Located in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, which is halfway between the "tip" and the "elbow" of Cape Cod, the residence is situated on historic Route 6. 

Ed and Connie are a fun-loving couple and teachers who covet the quiet days they spend on the Cape. For Ed, it means fishing, relaxing, and puttering around his barn, while Connie relishes the opportunity to curl up and read all the beloved books she saves up for the season. 

In 1999, the Gordons adopted Michael Davis after he lost his mother to AIDS. He is a classmate and friend of the eldest Gordon daughter Ann; she was instrumental in bringing Michael into the family.

Ann and her younger sister Poppy eagerly look forward to their vacation on the coast, even more so now, so they can introduce their new "brother" to the enchantment of the Cape. Michael adjusts to life with the Gordons and becomes the son Ed never had for he loves spending time with the young man and teaching him different things. 

Ann, who's always been the popular sister, sees Poppy and Michael becoming inseparable. She sometimes rebuffs her younger sibling, but now she misses the closeness they once shared. 

"All her life Poppy had followed Ann around like a lost puppy, wearing her clothes, imitating her gestures, wanting to hang out with Ann and her friends instead of making her own. Ann was used to shrugging Poppy off, only now Poppy didn't seem to care if Ann lived or died. She missed Poppy, but she was too proud to say so."

While Poppy and Michael explore the ocean and woodlands around their cottage, Ann, who has feelings for Michael that aren't brotherly, realizes she needs to keep her distance from him rather than let him know of her attraction. When she attains a job babysitting for Maureen and Anthony Shaw, a rich couple who own an ostentatious second home nearby, she jumps at the offer and relishes the company of the two spoiled, yet bored boys. Their mom, Maureen treats Ann more like a friend than the hired help, and soon Ann begins to covet their lifestyle. 

This is the summer before Ann's senior year of high school and when the Gordon family disintegrates. Poppy rebels by getting involved with a surfer crowd with which she starts drinking and smoking dope. She is never home and is disgusted by Ann’s constant fawning over the Shaw's. 

Michael is delighted to be offered employment with a local landscaper who have the Shaws as a client. He loves working with plants and nature, though when he encounters Anthony, he suggests Ann keep her distance as he believes the man is dangerous, though she does not heed his warning. 

Busy with his company's heavy workload, Anthony is rarely around, but one day he shows up unannounced when Ann is alone in the master bedroom trying on one of Maureen's dresses—a dress Ann thinks looks hideous on Maureen. When he enters, Ann is posing naked in front of the mirror. She is embarrassed, but it is clear he relishes seeing the young teenager in the buff. What is worse is that Ann somehow revels in his attention. Though frightened by her feelings, she vows to stay away from him. He always seems to show up when least expected ,and as Ann's teenage hormones course through her, she can't help but get aroused though creeped out by the older man. Then one day when he accosts her, she cannot get away from him fast enough. Repulsed and ashamed, she quits her job and begs to return to Wisconsin.

The Gordons never return to their cottage on the Cape, yet in August 2015, Ed and Connie decide to head back to their summer home. Ann is single and living in Boston working at a lucrative job, while Poppy is flitting around the world with the surfing set, like a vagabond, and Michael has been missing and unheard from for the past 15 years.


Unfortunately Ed and Connie and are killed in a car crash on the way to the Cape.
It is up to Ann to locate her sister and inform her of their parents’ passing as well as needing no reminders of her last summer there, notifies her that she is selling the Cape Cod house. Though Anne and Poppy are estranged, Poppy does not want to give up the family home. Ann fears Michael may show up to put a claim on the property. After all, he is a rightful heir, but where has he been all these years? 

The three siblings offer their point of view throughout this debut novel. They all have suffered misunderstandings and heartache, losing the closeness they once relished. Ann and Poppy are thrown together in the home that once brought them so much joy when Michael arrived. Can they ever recover the camaraderie they once shared? 

With the distinct and expressive descriptions of the locations, the reader can almost taste the salty sea air and smell the mudflats of the Cape. The sentiments of all the characters are credible as well as distressing and/or joyful as the case may be. Many contemporary novels offer endings that one can assume before the book is half-read, yet The Second Home is fresh, innovative, and pleasing with its unexpected conclusion.