The Last Bathing Beauty takes us back to the summer of 1951 in South Haven, Michigan. Located on Lake Michigan, this area was affectionately regarded as “the Catskills of the Midwest” filled with resorts for the area’s Jewish families. Betty Claire Stern is the granddaughter of the owners of Stern’s Summer Resort and this will be her last summer with her best friends Georgia and Doris before heading to New York City to attend Barnard College hopefully followed by a career at a fashion magazine. Betty quickly finds herself head over heels in love and also gets ready to compete in the annual Miss South Haven beauty pageant. What starts as an idyllic summer becomes one that will change the course of Betty’s life. The story is told in the past and in 2017 where Betty, now in her 80s and known as Boop, is preparing to leave her home in South Haven and move to California. She has invited Georgia and Doris to visit when Boop’s granddaughter Hannah shows up unexpectedly and in need of help. Hannah’s crisis is all too familiar to Boop’s past, which has long been kept a secret from her family. Boop can’t help her granddaughter until she makes peace with the decisions she made as well as the decisions that were made for her long ago.
The Last Bathing Beauty brings back in accurate detail, an era long gone where families spent entire summers together in resorts (think of the movie Dirty Dancing) and everyone was expected to marry “their own kind.” You can visualize the lakeside resort and feel the yearning of young desire. The characters are endearing and you’ll ache along with them thinking of the roads not taken. None of the plot twists were surprising. This was simply a lovely book.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
To be published on April 1, 2020.
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