New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Mary McNear returns to her beloved Butternut Lake in a story where the complicated bonds of sisterhood are tested, long kept secrets are revealed, and love is discovered... all during one unforgettable summer at the lake.
Win and Poppy are two sisters who couldn’t be more different. Win is organized, responsible, and plans her life with care. Poppy is impulsive and undependable, leaving others to pick up the pieces of her life. But despite their differences, they share memories of the idyllic childhood summers they spent together on the shores of Butternut Lake. Now, , Win, recovering from a personal tragedy, has taken refuge on Butternut Lake, settling into a predictable and quiet life.
Then one night, Poppy unexpectedly shows up on her sister’s doorstep with her suitcases, an aging cat named Sasquatch, and a mysterious man in tow. Although Win loves her beautiful sister, she wasn’t expecting her to move in for the summer. At first, they relive the joys of Butternut Lake. But their blissful nostalgia soon gives way to conflict, and painful memories and buried secrets threaten to tear the sisters apart. As the waning days of summer get shorter, past secrets are revealed, new love is found, and the ties between the sisters are tested like never before… all on the serene shores of Butternut Lake.
Read an Excerpt:
"Look, there's a driveway," Poppy said. "And there's a cabin at the end of it, too. You can see its lights through the trees."
"All right," Everett said. "But if my car breaks down, I'm not knocking on that door. I've seen that movie, too. We spend the night there, and when we wake up in the morning, we discover that our kidneys have been harvested."
"Ugh," Poppy said, wincing. "I had no idea you were so dark, Everett."
"No?" he said, with a trace of a smile. "It's amazing how much you can learn about someone on a two-hundred-and-forty-mile drive."
"That's true," Poppy mused. "So, what have you learned about me?" she asked. She wasn't being flirtatious. She was just curious.
"I've learned . . ." He looked over at her, speculatively. "I've learned that you think corn nuts are revolting."
"That's because they are revolting."
"Corn nuts," Everett said, concentrating on another turn, "are the ultimate road trip food."
"Not even close," Poppy said. "Because that would obviously be Red Vines."
"Yeah, I don't think so," Everett said. "I mean, they have, like, zero nutritional value, unless you count whatever's in the red dye, and—"
"Oh, my God, look," Poppy said, excitedly, of the driveway they were passing. Beside it a large sign with a wintery pinecone painted on it spelled out white pines.
"What's that?" Everett asked.
"It's a resort, and it means that we are now exactly three miles away from my grandparents' cabin. I mean, my sister's cabin," she amended, feeling that familiar jab of resentment she felt whenever she was reminded of the fact that this beloved piece of family real estate had been passed down to Win, and only Win, three years ago. This resentment was part of the reason that Poppy had avoided coming to Butternut Lake since Win had moved here year-round a couple of years ago. But if there was any comfort to be found inWin being the one to own the cabin, it was in knowing that she would never sell it; it meant as much to her as it did to Poppy.
Poppy and Win had spent all of their childhood summers here until Poppy was sixteen and Win was fifteen (they were thirteen months apart), and Poppy, who was just shy of thirty, could still remember every detail of the cabin. It stood on a small bluff, just above Butternut Lake, and its dark brown clapboard exterior was brightened by cheerful window boxes that overflowed with geraniums. And the homey touches continued inside: colorful rag rugs, knotted pine furniture, red-checked slipcovers on sofas and chairs. The living room, everyone's favorite room, was as comfortable as an old shoe, with its fieldstone fireplace, and its old record player and collection of albums (some of which dated back to the 1950s). In one corner, there was a slightly wobbly card table for playing gin rummy, and on the shelf next to the table, a collection of hand-painted duck decoys. Mounted on the wall above the mantelpiece was the prized three-foot walleyed pike that had not gotten away from their grandfather. The living room windows looked out on a flagstone patio, their grandmother’s begonia garden, and a slope of mossy lawn leading down to the lake. And the kitchen . . . Poppy remembered it as though it existed in a perpetual summer morning: the lemon yellow cup- boards, the row of shiny copper pans hanging on the wall, and the turquoise gas stove, a monument to 1950s chic.
"Do you think you should give your sister a call now?" Everett asked, interrupting her reverie.
"To tell her that we're almost there."
"Oh," Poppy said, momentarily at a loss. And then she tossed her long blond hair. "No. I'm not going to tell her," she said. "I thought we'd surprise her."
Everett stole a quick look at her. "But… she knows we're coming, right?"
"Not exactly," Poppy said, feeling a first twinge of nervousness.
Everett was quiet. Then he asked, "Does your sister like surprises?"
"Not really," Poppy said, and there it was again, that nervousness. She tamped it down, firmly, and said, "But what are sisters for if they can't just . . . drop in on each other?"
"'Drop in'?" Everett said, after another pause. "It looks like you've got a lot of your stuff with you, though, Poppy. Isn't it more like, 'move in'?"
Poppy ignored this question. Harder to ignore were her suitcases, wedged in the trunk of Everett's car, or her boxes, stacked on the backseat beside Sasquatch's pet carrier. And it wasn't just a lot of her stuff, as Everett had pointed out. It was all of her stuff. Though, truth be told, that wasn't saying much. It had taken her less than an hour to pack everything up. Traveling light was a recurring theme with Poppy, and a necessary one, too, since her peripatetic lifestyle was the norm.
"Sisters don't have to call ahead. They're there for each other," Poppy said now, though she was annoyed by the defensiveness she heard in her own voice.
"But do you think your sister—Win—will be home right now? It's ten o'clock on a Saturday night."
"Oh, she'll be home. If I know her, she's probably . . . alphabetizing her spice rack," Poppy said, "or color coding her sock drawer." As soon as she said this, though, she felt disloyal. "Actually, she's a sweetheart," she said, turning to Everett. "And I don't blame her, at all, for being a little . . . neurotic or controlling, or whatever she is. I told you about what happened to her, didn't I?" And Poppy pictured Win as she'd been the last time she'd seen her, her dark blond hair pulled back in a ponytail and her girl next door approachableness only slightly tempered by the wistful expression on her face.
"Yeah, you told me what happened to her," Everett said. It was quiet in the car again as he negotiated another sharp turn, and as Poppy watched the car's lights skim over an entrance to an old logging road. She smiled. She and Win had driven down that road as teenagers, looking for bears at dusk.
"All right," she said, after a few more minutes, "we're getting close. After this next curve, it's the first driveway on the left." And, suddenly hungry, she added, "Here's hoping Win's got some leftovers from dinner."
"Yeah, and here's hoping she's in a good mood," Everett added wryly.
I love visiting Butternut Lake. It has such interesting people working through the thing we call life. McNear did such a great job creating a place that now feels familiar to me, as I have read all of the Butternut Lake books that McNear has written. In the newest installment The Space Between Sisters you get to spend the summer with Win and Poppy while they work through the past and figure how what the future holds. It is filled with so much love...in various forms. Another sweet and deeply moving novel that is perfect for the summer or as a book club pick. 4.5 stars
About MARY MCNEAR New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary McNear is a writer living in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, miniscule white dog named Macaroon. She writes her novels in a local donut shop where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly-made donuts. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the Northern Midwest.