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April 7, 2020

The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

September 1951
Any other bride might have gazed into the mirror, stepped away, and then glanced back over her shoulder for another peek. Not Betty. She hadn't looked at herself once today, in fact she'd avoided her reflection all week. She knew the person looking back from the mirror would not be her. Betty Claire Stern no longer existed. She wanted to say she died, but Betty was mindful of her reputation for melodrama. (Prologue)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

April 2020; Lake Union Publishing; 978-1542007092
audio, ebook, print (303 pages); historical fiction
This wonderful new novel by Amy Sue Nathan is all about the 'what ifs' of life -- the days we all look back on and wonder how our lives would be different if only we had chosen another path.  It's full of friendship, love, family, and regrets.  I have read and enjoyed all of the books by this author but this one is my new favorite.  First, because it takes place in Michigan along the Lake Michigan shoreline near where I spent all of my summers growing up.  Second, it stresses the importance of friends, not only as teenagers but real lifelong friends.

The Last Bathing Beauty is a dual timeline novel:

1951 - Betty has just graduated from high school and is leaving for Barnard college in the fall.  She has her life planned out - after college, she plans to move to NYC and become a magazine editor for a fashion magazine.  But she has to spend her last summer in Michigan helping her grandparents at the all-inclusive resort they own.  In the 1950s the area around Grand Haven was considered the 'Catskills of the Midwest" and catered to Jewish families on vacation.  Betty had worked there her entire life because her grandparents raised her but this year would be different because she was now old enough to take part in the after-hours fun with the college students who worked there - cookouts, bonfires, and most important dating!  She and her two best friends enjoy themselves as Betty joins the pageant to become Miss Grand Haven and more importantly, she falls in love with a college student.

Present Day - Betty, now known as Boop is in her 80s.  She returned to Grand Haven after her husband died and was once again living at the resort her grandparents had owned.  It's no longer a resort but living there reminds her of the changes that happened during her last summer there.  Her two best friends come to visit and they reminisce about that summer so long ago and share some of it with Boop's granddaughter who has come to visit and cry on Boop's shoulder.  She and her friends decide that it's time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.

"Against her heart's better judgment, Boop remembered everything. After all it had been the best and worst summer of her life." (loc 665)

I loved the characters in this novel especially Betty/Boop.  This was a real coming of age novel, even though she is in her 80s, it's never too late to reconcile current life and memories.  I loved the friendship between the three lifelong friends and the love that they felt for each other.  Often in dual timeline novels, one story will be more interesting than the other but in this novel, I enjoyed both storylines and enjoyed Betty as a teenager as much as Boop as an older woman.  Betty wanted more out of life than becoming a wife and mother, even though that was the goal of most women in the 1950s.  She is a strong woman in her 80s and she and her friends showed that life can be as exciting for women at any age as long as she has her friends.

“You should own all pieces of your life, good or bad. They make up who you are.”

Buy The Last Bathing Beauty at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. Great first lines! I love the cover; it reminds me of those horrible bathing suits we had back in the 1950s.

    Here's mine: “SAFE HOUSE”

  2. I really like the sound of this one and the setting as well.

    Here's my pick for today:

  3. I have this one on my Kindle and I can't wait to read it. It sounds great!

  4. I'm glad to hear this book sounds so good! I think I got this one from Amazon First Reads? It sounds familiar - I think I have it somewhere... Enjoy your week!

  5. sounds like a good one. don't we all have what ifs?
    sherry @ fundinmental

  6. Hi Donna! I'm totally late to the party, sorry! Somehow I missed responding to this. And always like to catch up, even if it is eventually...

    This sounds like an intriguing read, I would enjoy this one. Love that photo - makes me wonder if it's a 'real' one.