Book Description (from Amazon):
“On the cusp of turning thirty, Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget are now living separate lives, out on their own. Yet despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness. Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await.
And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.”
I have to admit to some sentimentality when it came to choosing this book. I’d read The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants when it came out, and loved the four Septembers in their first appearance. Likewise, I enjoyed both of the movie adaptations. I’ve kept up with the books over the years, even as I grew older and the characters became “too young” for me.
Ann Brashares returns to her girls ten years after the events in the last books. They’ve all pursued life paths true to character- Carmen is a successful actress, Lena teaches art, and Bee floats wherever the wind takes her. The only mystery to the girls is Tibby, who moved away to Australia with Brian when his software design took off. They’re overjoyed to receive letters from her with an invitation to a reunion in Santorini, and each girl knows that it’s been far too long since she’s spent time with her best friends.
**Spoiler Alert! If you intend to read this book, stop here. I tried to write this review multiple times, but found it impossible to discuss some of the themes without revealing this one important plot point**- One of the girls dies tragically early in the story, and a letter she leaves behind indicates that her death was not an accident.
I admit to getting pissed off at Ms Brashares at that point. How could she possibly continue the story after making a plot choice like that?! And why create such seemingly unnecessary drama in something that was supposed to be a “light” read full of friendship and love?
Trust me, she has her reasons.
The tragedy forces each of the characters to deal with grief in her own way. For one, it’s running off the rails and once again coming to terms with the sadness in her own past. For one, it’s throwing herself into planning a wedding she doesn’t necessarily want. For the last, it’s cocooning herself even further into the solitude she’s cloaked herself in, to the point of pushing away anyone who would try to help her. Rather than pulling the girls closer together, their sadness drives them apart. Each feels that trying to cope in the presence of the others would magnify her own sadness, and each blames herself for the loss of one of them.
I know, I’m making this sound like a real downer, but trust me, it is a gorgeous book and a very fitting end to the story of the Septembers. It’s a lovely examination of the ruts that we can fall into in life, and that the people we allow ourselves to become are not necessarily who we truly are. There’s just enough magic to remind the reader of the Pants, without being corny, and returning to this group of characters (all of them. Even Effie.) was reminiscent of visiting with old friends.
If you’ve read any of the story to this point, you absolutely must read this book. I read most of it in one day, and was sad to turn the last page. Could it be called too sappy? Possibly. Consider it a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or raw cookie dough. Sometimes, you just need some sweetness.
Four and a half fireflies.