Did you hear? Grace, mother of two and wife of real estate mogul “Fast Eddie,” is in the midst of a passionate love affair with Benton Coe, the architect. (They must be doing much more than chitchatting about the intricacies of her lavish garden.) And, did you know? Supposedly, her garden will be featured in a big spread in The Boston Globe. And what will we do about Grace’s daughter, Allegra? Was that marijuana she was found with in a scandalous photograph?
Meanwhile, Madeline, Grace’s best friend, has a book deadline approaching, and she purchases a space in town to write. Unless it’s that her marriage is on the rocks, of course.
In her latest novel, The Rumor, Elin Hilderbrand brings readers back to Nantucket. With her trademark imagery and profoundly rich character development, we delve into daily life on this charming island — gossip included.
Madeline, though she means to write something else, ends up using her best friend’s affair as the premise for her own upcoming novel, bringing about a personal dilemma that many writers struggle with: Should we create a great read even if it means ruining someone’s privacy?
“I am not writing this, Madeline thought. I am not writing this. But she was writing it,” Hilderbrand writes. “The words were flowing out of her like something she spilled on the page. Grace had said it herself: Everything was normal and boring. And now … now, my life is a novel.”
As a writer, I constantly evaluate my boundaries. What is personal enough to share, to solidify a connection with an audience, but what’s too personal to publish? The line of public disclosure is not an easy one to tread.
And if others’ lives get pulled into story lines — not just the writer’s own secrets — the boundaries become even murkier.
But whether or not you relate directly to this writerly dilemma, The Rumor gets us thinking about the emotional impact of gossip. While people may talk about others in their social circles from time to time, generating stories just for the sake of it can lead to hurt feelings and strained relationships.
The book is certainly striking a chord with readers: a bestseller with 170,000 copies in print.
Thomas Farragher’s column in The Boston Globe — that is, the Globe in real life, not the book — calls Hilderbrand a “literary dynamo.”
“I think I write the best beach books out there because they have some heft to them,” Hilderbrand told Farragher. Indeed, The Rumor is both a substantive beach read and a fantastic look at what happens when we dish about our friends.
Little, Brown, June 2015
Hardcover, 384 pages