Author: Courtney Sheinmel
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams Publishing
TW/CW: Death (side characters), extreme poverty (talk of hunger, living in squalor), mentions of dead animals.
Rep: Poverty, parental abandonment, PTSD, anxiety, depression.
Lorrie Hollander used to be a rich girl who spent her money on boarding school and equestrian camp. But that was before. It’s been twelve years since Lorrie’s mother skipped town and left Lorrie and her sister in the care of her unstable aunt Gigi. Together they live in a decaying mansion called Edgewater, the eyesore in a town of extraordinary wealth and privilege.
While Lorrie is desperately trying to keep her family from collapse, she meets Charlie, the son of an esteemed senator. Terrified that he will learn the truth about her, she holds him at a distance. But Charlie’s family is hiding something, too. And Lorrie could never have imagined how their secrets, and their lives, are inextricably bound.
This book was pitched to me as a modern day Grey Gardens and I was instantly interested in it. If you’re unsure about what Grey Gardens is, here’s a brief synopsis: In the 70s, two filmmakers came across a crumbling mansion in the East Hamptons. The residents were Big Edie and Little Edie, a formerly wealthy mother and daughter duo, who were living in absolute squalor. If you look at the pictures of the house or watch the documentary, it’s hard to imagine anyone living with wild animals in the house.
EDGEWATER does not stray far from this. It’s established that Lorrie lives her entire life worrying about her trust money (which is the only money her family has) and is fearful of people coming to Edgewater, the crumbling mansion that she lives in with her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, her aunt, a few dozen cats, and all the wild animals that are able to wander into the house. The house, once one of the grandest houses in the area, has fallen into complete disrepair due to lack of money and the fact that Lorrie’s Aunt Gigi, the sisters’ guardian, seems almost too eccentric to function.
After the trust money seemingly disappears, Lorrie is booted from her horse camp and is sent back home to Edgewater. She is forced to take a job while she tries to figure out what had happened to the trust her mother set up for her and Susannah before she took of to London with her boyfriend. While trying to pay for gas, Lorrie runs into Charlie Copeland, wayward son of a prominent political family.
I rated the book 4 stars because I did enjoy the characters and the friendship between Lorrie and Lennox. Lennox is very privileged but she goes out of her way to help Lorrie when it comes to money and being a support system. She’s definitely not ashamed of Lorrie, her situation, or the decaying house Lorrie lives in.
Lorrie, though, is an unlikable character. It’s not necessarily a bad thing- imagine being a 17 year old surrounded by rich people and knowing you’re the laughing stock of the country club because of your house and family. Lorrie does everything she can to make sure they survive but she also has this chip on her shoulder that makes her lash out at Lennox. While she apologies and the girls make up within a couple of pages, there is definitely an air of resentment throughout the book… which feels real and natural, to be honest.
There were a few troubling elements to the book. It does feel odd that no one checked in on the girls, especially knowing that Gigi isn’t quite right and the house is in shambles. The book mentions that a neighbor continuously called the cops over the house and it’s hard to imagine that CPS was never involved at any point. It was also deeply unsettling to read about Susannah, who is 15, having a live-in boyfriend who reads as much older than her (he doesn’t go to school, plays poker, drives, and purchases beer) and not only is this a “non-issue”, the only reason Lorrie seems to not like him is because he steals from the house. I know this was meant to be a device to show just how uncared for these girls are, but it was still deeply disturbing to read.
There are two plot twists in the book. One I figured out beforehand and the other knocked me off my feet. I’ve seen reviews saying that both of these plot twists were overdone but I think feel that they fit in well with the premise of this book.
If you’re looking for a book with a little mystery, a lot of scandal, and few house raccoons, this is the one for you.