Together, Lila and Robert have three daughters: Emma, Quinn, and Mattie. Following their divorce, Lila and Robert started new families resulting in Lila’s son, Ray, and Robert’s daughter, Sasha. Aside from the three eldest daughters, the only thing these families have in common is their beach house on Long Island. The beach house is shared between the two families, changing hands each week. To the parents, the house is the remaining pawn in a bitter divorce. However to the children, particularly Ray and Sasha, the beach house is their true home, representing the possibility for their families to come together and heal after all these years.
The Whole Thing Together encapsulates the loss and confusion of divorce and the fracturing of one’s family. Though the three eldest sisters are the direct product of this tumultuous relationship, it is their younger siblings who best epitomize the loss of identity that comes from the separation. Sasha and Ray also provide the most humor out of all the characters. As with her other novels, Brashares excels at character development, introducing and integrating characters that are relatable and occasionally frustrating in their imperfections. The parents for instance, could have easily been vilified under the circumstances however this novel avoids that cliché by humanizing them and illustrating that like everyone, parents have their flaws too.
Though this is a quick read, it is not as tonally light as Brashares’ other novels. Additionally there are elements of the plot, one in particular, that feel gratuitous. Consequently it may not leave readers feeling as satisfied as they would like. Overall, though somewhat predictable, it is a captivating and mildly thought-provoking novel.
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