Friday, July 2, 2021

Book Review: Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Pub. Date: June 1, 2021
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she's assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer. Vivi also is granted three “nudges” to change the outcome of events on earth, and with her daughter Willa on her third miscarriage, Carson partying until all hours, and Leo currently “off again” with his high-maintenance girlfriend, she’ll have to think carefully where to use them.  From the Beyond, Vivi watches “The Chief” Ed Kapenash investigate her death, but her greatest worry is her final book, which contains a secret from her own youth that could be disastrous for her reputation. But when hidden truths come to light, Vivi’s family will have to sort out their past and present mistakes—with or without a nudge of help from above—while Vivi finally lets them grow without her.  With all of Elin’s trademark beach scenes, mouth-watering meals, and picture-perfect homes, plus a heartfelt message—the people we lose never really leave us—Golden Girl is a beach book unlike any other."


Vivian (Vivi) Howe is a successful novelist  living on the idyllic island of Nantucket. She's divorced and has three grown children. Does this sound familiar...dare I say a little autobiographical? While on a morning run on a gorgeous day in June, she gets hit by a car and dies immediately upon impact.  Her son's best friend is the first person to discover her on the side of the road.  Obviously her sudden death is devastating to not only her children, but to her best friend, her ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, and to the island of Nantucket.  All of her children still feel like they need her in their lives and question how they will go on with her love, support, and guidance.  Plus, there's the more pressing issue of who hit Vivi and then left her there? Meanwhile, Vivi enters the "Beyond" and is assigned a person, Martha, to guide her.  She gets one last summer to watch her family and friends and even more exciting she gets three nudges to help guide her family. Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand at first glance may seem like a dark beach read, but ultimately it's a hopeful one that made me laugh, cry, and had me glued to the pages all while enjoying the beautiful setting of Nantucket.

Vivi is such an interesting character in Golden Girl and I couldn't help but wonder if part of her life's experiences come from Elin's.  There are many similarities between the two characters, which is intriguing in and of itself.  Once Vivi is in the Beyond, she watches things play out down below and in turn, finds out secrets about her children, about her ex-husband, and she is worried some of her own secrets might come out after the publication of her last novel.  You see Vivi's last novel is based on her own life experiences and has a pretty big secret in it that stems back to high school. If a particular person from her past reads the novel, her secrets may become unearthed and Vivi isn't sure she is ready for that, especially since she isn't there to do any damage control.  However, she does have these three nudges to help her loved ones avoid any disasters. Also, I love how Hilderbrand has us get to know Vivi through flashbacks; it was all so well done and tugged on my heartstrings.

Vivi watches from the Beyond as her children deal with her untimely death as well as the hit-and-run investigation in Golden Girl.  First there's her oldest Willa, who is the most responsible and is married to her high school sweetheart.  She works at the Nantucket Historical Society and has her life planned out. The only thing she doesn't have is a baby. She has had multiple miscarriages and finds herself pregnant again. Then there's wild-child Carson who is the polar opposite of Willa. She works as head bartender at a popular restaurant on Nantucket and dabbles in drugs, partakes in reckless behavior, and to top it off, she's having an affair with a married man.  Obviously, this concerns Vivi. Her youngest child, Leo, just graduated high school and is off to college in the fall. Vivi learns many secrets about him while watching over him. Then there's her ex-husband, JP, who has decided that the woman he left Vivi for isn't a good fit after all.  Vivi's death throws him for a loop.  Who will she use her nudges on? Thankfully, Vivi has been assigned to Martha in the Beyond and she guide her through this.

Even though the premise of Golden Girl seems a bit dismal, I can promise you it isn't. There's still all the things we have come to love in Hilderbrand's novels. There's descriptions of Nantucket, the restaurants, the cocktails, the beaches, and of course, the family drama.  Hilderbrand's characters feel real and her portrayal of the after-life is also well done. I really loved it actually. Hilderbrand explains at the end of her novel that the early loss of her father as well as her breast cancer journey inspired this novel and I think many people can relate to the themes....the idea that someone may be watching over us, nudging us in the right direction, or helping us to avoid a disaster.  Elin's cancer diagnosis obviously impacted her life and you can see threads of it in Golden Girl. This is something I can relate to as I have dealt with my own cancer diagnosis. If something threatens your life, you start to really question how you are living and you start to think about things you didn't before and that's what Golden Girl accomplishes. I know many people complained it was dark, but I think those people have the immense privilege of living in a world of unicorns and rainbows. That's not life, at least not for most of us.  Essentially, Hilderbrand gives us something to think about in Golden Girl. What would life look like without you? Do we ever lose the people we love?  I, for one, certainly appreciated the important themes of love, loss, and grief. In fact, I hope the after-life is exactly like Hilderbrand's green room in the Beyond.

Needless to say, I loved Golden Girl. I could see how Hilderbrand was hoping this would be her last novel, but it appears we can expect a few more from her.  Golden Girl and 28 Summers are my absolute favorite of her novels. I can't imagine that she can top these two, but if anyone can do it, she can.

Have you read Golden Girl? Are you a fan of Hilderbrand? Let me know in the comments below. 



  1. I cannot wait to read this! So glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Thanks, Michele! I hope you enjoy it! You'll have to let me know your thoughts. Thanks for visiting!

  2. I haven't read her books in awhile, but it sounds like I need to start again!

    1. Her last few books are the best in my opinion...she has really stepped up her game. 28 Summers, Summer of 69 and this novel are all really good! I hope you get to read her soon. Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  3. it sort of sounds like A Christmas Carol, isn't it? Very interesting take on 'beach reads'. :)

    1. Yes, it has some of the same elements of ACC, which I love! Thanks for visiting, Joy!

  4. I still haven't read any books by this author. Golden Girl definitely sounds like one I would enjoy :) Great review!

    -Megan @ Bookstacks & Golden Moms


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