Now and Then Friends
by Kate Hewitt
After loving Rainy Day Sisters, I was eager to read the next Hartley-by-the-Sea novel. I loved the town and characters and I couldn’t wait to go back! Sure enough, I loved Now and Then Friends. The writing was raw and heartfelt; the characters filled with emotion. There were new people and new challenges, and I loved watching them grow and change. Reading Hewitt’s books (at least these two) is like coming home – comfortable and soothing. I can’t wait for the next book!
Rachel (the young woman who cleans Juliet’s bed and breakfast from the first book) takes center stage in this book, along with her former friend from primary school, Claire. Rachel is jaded from a life filled with hardship. Her younger sister, Meghan, has a son she’s raising on her own, and her other sister, Lily, is one test away from getting into a prominent college with a sold career. Her mother broke her back when Lily was only 6 weeks old and has been bed ridden ever since. Her father left them all after Rachel started going to college, so she had to quit, returning home to care for her mother and sisters. Ever since then, Rachel’s run the household and restarted her mother’s cleaning business.
Claire has always had it all. She’s been coddled and cared for her whole life and has no will or desire to make her own decisions. Everyone’s always made them for her – from her older brother, Andrew, keeping an eye on her throughout school; to her parents getting her a job and place to live after college; to her fiancé dictating her every move and want. One day the apathy is too much and Claire gets drunk at a party, embarrassing Hugh. He recommends to her parents that she go to rehab for a drinking problem. Instead of arguing that she doesn’t have a problem, Claire goes. But when the few weeks are over she refuses to stay with her parents in London, deciding instead to live in their house in Hartley-by-the-Sea. There she embarks on a new life – one in which she can think for herself.
Claire and Rachel bump into each other when Rachel comes to clean Claire’s house. It is awkward because their friendship is rocky at best. Back in primary school the girls were best friends, Rachel looked out for Claire and was the only true friend Claire had. But when they reached level 6, Claire acquiesced to her mother’s plans and became friends with the popular girls, expecting Rachel to join in. However, Rachel felt rejected by Claire and refused to show it. She tried once to go to Claire’s house, but it was her birthday party and Rachel got turned away at the door (and realized she didn’t get invited). Ever since, Rachel’s been hurt and Claire’s been indifferent.
Spoilers: throughout the book, Rachel faces her bitterness and blindness to the needs of those around her, from Claire, to her sisters, to her mother. Andrew in particular points things out, originally in an attempt to get Rachel to look out for Claire, but then because he genuinely cares for Rachel. Claire faces her ineptitude and starts to think for herself. She gets a job at the post office/general store, working for the bristling owner, Dan. It is a great start, and soon she is standing up to her parents, brother, and friends. She begins to know her own mind and is able to act on it. In the end, the girls make up and become friends again, even going into the cleaning business together. Rachel lets go of the chip on her shoulder, finally allowing people to help her, like Andrew, her sisters and Claire. Her mother has a stroke and she wants to go back to school, so letting people in is the only way she can live her life. She also falls for Andrew, which is super sweet. Claire stands up for herself and rejects a job offer from her parents. She wants to stay in Hartley-by-the-Sea, working for Dan (they totally fall for each other) and working with Rachel. It is a beautiful happy ending.
Summing it up: I loved this book and I absolutely recommend it! But read Rainy Day Sisters first!
All the best, Abbey