The Guest Book – A lifetime of secrets. A history untold. No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty’s defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir.
In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons’ circle. One captures the attention of Kitty’s daughter, while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.
So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn’t have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton’s mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother’s and grandparents’ history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.
Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake’s triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.
An Amazon Best Book of May 2019: Sarah Blake’s latest novel, The Guest Book, is a gorgeous epic that charts the course of an American family over three generations, from the 1930s to present day. Blake draws you into the Milton clan, and the more I became privy to their secrets, fears, and desires, the more I felt at home with every flawed one of them. Early in the novel, Blake’s character Evie tells her students, “History is between the cracks,” and so it is in this book: a history created in moments big and small, knitting itself together inside us, and of us. Crockett Island, off the coast of Maine, bought by Kitty and Ogden Milton in 1936 as a place of refuge and legacy, is as much a character in the novel as those who gather there. Through Blake’s writing I could smell the ocean, see the lilac tree beside the door.
And I could feel Kitty and Ogden’s dream fray when the grandchildren inherit the island and all it represents. The Miltons’ story mirrors the times in which they lived, and we watch as parents and siblings make choices driven by ambition, prejudice, or pride that later haunt them and their progeny. Issues of gender inequality, classism, racism, breaking free from the past—Blake tackles them all, because all play an important role in the history of the family as well as that of the country in which we live. There is so much I want to tell you about this book. So many passages I have underlined and returned to. Instead, I invite you to visit the Miltons of Crockett Island in the pages of The Guest Book yourself, so that you too may experience the emotional resonance of Blake’s remarkable and thought-provoking novel. —Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review
#1 Indie Next Pick for May
One of the Best Books of May: Entertainment Weekly, Refinery29, PopSugar, Bookish, BBC, Chicago Review of Books, Real Simple, Goodreads
“Beautifully crafted….The Milton family history, rife with secrets and moral failings, including a deep-seated bigotry, is a timely tale of America itself. An enveloping and moving page-turner.” ―People, Book of the Week
“Sarah Blake writes in the historical fiction tradition of someone like Herman Wouk…[She] is an accomplished storyteller, braiding in a large cast of characters and colorful excursions.” ―Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“An American epic in the truest sense…Blake humanely but grippingly explores the heart of a country whose past is based in prejudice.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“Blake masterfully tells the Miltons’ history―racism, prejudice, betrayal, loss, and all―and in the process, captures a slice of American history as well.” ―Real Simple
“Sarah Blake delivers a juicy multi-generational novel.” ―Chicago Review of Books
“It’s a gorgeous book with a strong sense of place, like Empire Falls….If you’re going to read one book this summer make it this modern-day classic.” ―The Missourian
Originally published: 2 May 2019
Genres: Saga, Historical Fiction, Domestic Fiction
About the Author
Sarah Blake is the author of the novels Grange House, the New York Times bestseller The Postmistress, and The Guest Book. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, the poet Joshua Weiner, and their two sons.