The Summer Cottage
“The Summer Cottage is not only a lighthearted read about a woman discovering her authentic self, but it also offers a glimpse into coastal Michigan's history with its charming depiction of the locale sure to make every reader want to visit.”
How many middle-aged women have to start over after their marriage ends? Adie Lou Kruger's ex-husband, professor Nate Clarke, decides to trade her in for a younger model, leaving her at a crossroads. Her life in Chicago consisted of working at a job she hates, caring for a man who always belittled her, and living in an ostentatious home. The one good thing from her years with Nate is their son, Evan, now a college student.
Nate decides to sell their home and insists Adie Lou also list the "Creaky Cottage" on Lake Michigan left to her by her parents. This is the one place where Adie Lou experiences complete joy and happiness, and it grieves her to part with the house her family owned for generations.
After some deep soul searching and a heart-to-heart with her best friend and lawyer, Trish, Adie Lou determines to keep the summer residence, restore it, and turn it into a B & B. She is wracked with doubts. How is she going to finance the renovations? What if no one comes and she fails and is left penniless? Surely these thoughts are common to anyone beginning a new chapter in their life no matter their age.
Adie Lou spent every summer in Saugatuck, MI, then when married, Nate and Evan accompanied her. Nate shows disdain for their trips there, yet went for Evan. Upon arrival, Adie Lou's parents greeted them joyously on the porch waving the American flag and handling out sparklers. Ahead of entering they must recite the "rules" before the sparklers fizz out. Such an integral part of Adie Lou's life, this is the blissful start of her summers.
The rules originate years ago by her grandparents:
"1. Leave your troubles at the door.
2. Soak up the sun.
3. Nap often.
4. Wake up smiling.
5. Build a bonfire.
6. Go rock-hunting.
7. Dinner is a family activity.
8. Ice cream is a requirement.
9. Be grateful for each day.
10. Go jump in the lake.
11. Build a sandcastle.
12. Boat rides are a shore thing.
13. Everyone must be present for sunset.
14. Shake the sand from your feet, but never shake the memories of our summer cottage."
Now, in the harsh winter months, Adie Lou commences the tedious work of remodeling with the help of Frank, a local contractor who had a hand in many repairs over the years. When she finds a starving and abandoned mutt dumped on the beach, she rescues him, planning to find him a good home but instead keeps the golden Lab she names Sonny.
Before long, Iris Dragoon, the head of the Historical Society arrives, hell-bent on thwarting Adie Lou's every transformation. Known to the townsfolk as "the Dragoon Lady," Iris is a cranky senior citizen who loves throwing her weight around and scaring the heartiest of souls by her cantankerous ways. As if Adie Lou doesn't have enough problems financially, emotionally, and otherwise, this onerous woman is determined to put her out of business before she even opens.
Adie Lou modernizes each room and keeps the true history of the property by decorating every guest suite using the house rules, making the inn more genuine and personal. While working, she discovers artifacts depicting the property's origins dating back to the late 1800s. One such finding is a letter written by a young woman named Sadie in May of 1892. She pens of her upcoming arranged wedding, stating how she feels imprisoned and signs her missive with this passage from Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady:
"You wanted to look at life for yourself—but you are not allowed; you were punished for your wish. You were ground in the very mill of the conventional."
The author, writing under a pseudonym, is actually a man who used his own past as inspiration for this novel. Not only does he capture the nuances of female sentiments, but he draws one into this heart-warming tale attesting one can attain a happy ever after.
The Summer Cottage is not only a lighthearted read about a woman discovering her authentic self, but it also offers a glimpse into coastal Michigan's history with its charming depiction of the locale sure to make every reader want to visit.