The Angel Wore Hermes:
Elin Hilderbrand has got her beach read template down flat—scenic locations of Nantucket that she describes vividly, romance, suspense, garnished with a dash of sex.
Her latest, Golden Girl (27th novel), has a strange premise, but the lives of her characters are deftly woven into it. Bestselling novelist Vivian ‘Vivi’ Howe is killed in a hit-and-run accident while out jogging near her home. She finds herself in the afterlife, waiting in a room done up to her taste, looked after by her stylish Hermes-wearing guardian spirit, Martha; because she died unexpected and at the relatively young age of 51, she is given a summer to watch over her loved ones, and granted three ‘nudges’ to alter the outcome of an event that could affect their lives.
Her son Leo’s best buddy Cruz, who found her body and called for help, is suspected of being the culprit, and he is given the cold shoulder by the tightly-knit town, which affects his father’s popular restaurant. Vivi’s three kids are devastated, and fall into a weepy mess, while her best friend, Savannah, takes control of the funeral arrangement and their finances.
Vivi’s ex-husband JP falls apart too, and that causes a strain in his relationship with Amy, for whom he had walked out on Vivi a decade earlier. Amy waits patiently for a proposal that never comes. Vivi’s ex-boyfriend, Dennis (he is the comic relief), gets over his grief and moves on rather quickly.
Willa and Carson, Vivi’s two daughters (all the children were named after famous authors) are totally different in lifestyle and temperament; the older one is happily married to her childhood sweetheart and hoping to have a baby after a series of miscarriages, the younger is an always-angry rebel, a bartender in the town’s poplar watering hole, and a bit too fond of booze, drugs and unsuitable men.
Vivi was a caring mother, but there were things she did not know about her kids, which she discovers as she looks down at them from her celestial waiting room—like Leo’s secret crush and Carson’s potentially destructive affair with a married man. She also wishes that her latest novel, Golden Girl, makes it to number one in the bestseller charts, a feat she was unable to manage during her lifetime.
The town’s kindly sheriff, Ed Kapenash, does not believe that Cruz could have been responsible for knocking down the woman he loved as a mother, but there are no other leads and no clues. Still he does a careful investigation, and hopes that he can find the reckless driver, who left a woman to die in the street. The identity of the killer does come as a surprise, though there is a clue for the alert reader to pick up.
Hilderbrand captures the snobbery and subtle racism of the upper class, club types and the close links between townsfolk, that make it tough to keep gossip down and secrets to be hidden for too long.
Vivi is disturbed to find that her college flame, Brett, who had written a song titled Golden Girl for her, and chucked his music career to be with her, turns up to shock her family. He had never gotten over being dumped by Vivi and buried himself in a distant town, till her book came out and he realized it was their doomed love story she had used.
The novel begins with a death, and had a few ugly episodes, but like her fictional novelist, Hilderbrand makes sure everybody gets what they want (Vivi’s three nudges help), the singles are paired off; Vivi can finally rest in peace… and the reader can turn the last page with a smile.
By Elin Hilderbrand
Publisher: Little, Brown