In her latest, Silver Girl, Elin Hilderbrand continues her trademark inclusion of life on Nantucket, but in addition to the beautiful beaches and quaint town life, she reveals the story of an innocent woman hiding out to escape the notoriety her Ponzi-scheming, incarcerated husband has brought upon them, with only the help of her oldest and estranged friend. Hilderbrand talked to us about Bernie’s other half, WASP life and why every beach read needs the equivalent of a hunky handyman.
Want more books for the beach? Check out Kirkus' list of summer reads.
Silver Girl has similar components to the Bernie Madoff scandal—was that intentional?
This is not a novel about Ruth Madoff. And for me it’s new ground, I’m not a “ripped from the headlines” type of author. But I read an article in the New York Times style section about Ruth called “The Loneliest Women in New York.” I hadn’t been following the story very closely, and when I read that article, I thought, “That poor woman.” The last line of the article said Ruth had one friend left from preschool who was by her side. So this cataclysmic, apocalyptic thing happens and your oldest friend sticks by you. That was the seed and then I created my characters and it grew.
The characters in the book reference their life feeling like “high school over and over again”—do you experience that?
I do feel that way. Human interaction is difficult across the board. It starts in adolescence, and you think it will be easier when you’re an adult, but it’s not. People have conflicts and hurt each other and don’t apologize. For the characters in the book, the patterns of how they treated each other in high school other repeat into their adulthood.
Is the vibrancy of the food in Silver Girl representative of Nantucket?
When preparing to write The Blue Bistro and The Love Season, I did a ton of food and wine research, which fostered a passion of mine for restaurants and at-home gourmet cooking. I almost always have a food element in my books. Nantucket is infamous for that, we have a beautiful farm and fresh seafood and world-class restaurants so it’s very a much of part of life.
Was Meredith’s diving symbolic of something?
You know, it wasn’t but I get asked a lot if I pull from real life for my books. I usually don’t but this is one of these cases where I did. In high school, my boyfriend was a state champion diver so I used to go to every single one of his meets and once they had me judge so diving was something I was exposed to. So I used that knowledge in the book because I think diving is a little bit different and specialized.
What brought about the inclusion of “Bridge Over Troubled Water?”
This is the other real-life facet I included in this book. Like Meredith, my father died when I was in high school, and he played that song for me all the time. This year was the 25th anniversary of his death, and I wanted to do something special, and I wanted to write about the close relationship a teenage girl had with her father.
Music means a lot of different things to different people, I always feel like it was something he gave me, like a tool almost. When something tragic like that happens, it manifests itself again and again throughout your life, for Meredith she falls into the arms of Freddy and allows him to fill that hole – with good and bad.
Why include the hunky handyman?
I wanted to give [the characters] both something good, and Connie needed a man. I am not sure Meredith did—she needed a champion and a friend. I left it intentionally ambiguous. The main theme is forgiveness. In this case it’s nearly impossible forgiveness that she’s dealing with. And who knows if she’ll ever be able to do it. I think deep down she still loves him, and even though she’s my creation, that still amazes me.