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“I began The Guest Book expecting an excellent family saga set, in part, on an island in Maine. The magic of the family home is palpable as three generations build loyalty, identity, and memories there. But what I read was far, far more. This is a history of our country’s evolution through matters of race, class, and politics, and it relates compellingly to our current struggles with those topics as the characters grapple with the underpinnings of privilege, familial love, and morality. Sarah Blake has written a stunning and complex novel that lingers in your mind long after the last page.”
— Dana Brigham, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Instant New York Times Bestseller
“The Guest Book is monumental in a way that few novels dare attempt.” —The Washington Post
The thought-provoking new novel by New York Times bestselling author Sarah Blake
A lifetime of secrets. A history untold.
No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty’s defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir.
In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons’ circle. One captures the attention of Kitty’s daughter, while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.
So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn’t have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton’s mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother’s and grandparents’ history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.
Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake’s triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.
#1 Indie Next Pick for May
One of the Best Books of May: Entertainment Weekly, Refinery29, PopSugar, Bookish, BBC, Chicago Review of Books, Real Simple, Goodreads
“Thought-provoking and propulsive…Welcome to old money, new heartbreak, big secrets, and the kind of mouthwatering picnics nobody packs in real life (boiled eggs, tin of sandwiches, bottles of gin). But the North Star of Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book isn’t the Milton family—although they are fascinating, even the ghosts—it’s the Maine island cottage where they spend their summers. For me, it was love at first sight…. Even before the first page of the first chapter, you know this place is going to let you down—and yet, you climb the hill to the front door. Happily….Blake moves back and forth between the patriarch and matriarch, Ogden and Kitty Milton—driven by a tragedy I did not see coming—and their granddaughter, Evie, who struggles to decide the fate of the compound and, in piecing together its history, uncovers an ugly foundation she never knew existed. She can’t look away, and neither will you.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Beautifully crafted....The Milton family history, rife with secrets and moral failings, including a deep-seated bigotry, is a timely tale of America itself. An enveloping and moving page-turner.” —People, Book of the Week
“Sarah Blake writes in the historical fiction tradition of someone like Herman Wouk…[She] is an accomplished storyteller, braiding in a large cast of characters and colorful excursions.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“An American epic in the truest sense…Blake humanely but grippingly explores the heart of a country whose past is based in prejudice.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Blake masterfully tells the Miltons’ history—racism, prejudice, betrayal, loss, and all—and in the process, captures a slice of American history as well.” —Real Simple
“Sarah Blake delivers a juicy multi-generational novel.” —Chicago Review of Books
“It’s a gorgeous book with a strong sense of place, like Empire Falls....If you’re going to read one book this summer make it this modern-day classic.” —The Missourian
“Do you ever pick up a book just to check it out and find yourself lost in it an hour later trying to rearrange your life so you can just keep reading? Well that happened to me this week [with The Guest Book].” —WYPR, Baltimore
“Sarah Blake spins a fascinating epic that touches on privilege and ambition, racism and grief, revealing as much about America’s identity as it does the Miltons.” —Christian Science Monitor
“There are glimmers of To the Lighthouse in Blake’s lyrical and questing new novel.” —BBC
“Sarah Blake is such a beautiful writer she can make any world shimmer, but The Guest Book is particularly fascinating—an intergenerational exploration of memory, identity, love, and family loyalty, of what it costs to inherit a name, a place, and a difficult alignment with history. Powerful and provocative storytelling.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin
“I loved The Guest Book. Sarah Blake has managed the extraordinary feat of writing both an intimate family saga and an ambitious excavation of the subterranean currents of race, class, and power that have shaped America. This is a vivid, transporting novel, written by a master conjuror of time and place.” —Jessica Shattuck, New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle
“Sarah Blake’s powerful, beautifully written story portrays a couple's secret choices that come to haunt succeeding generations. The Guest Book is richly atmospheric and morally compelling in a way that stirs the mind long after the last page.” —Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky
“Epic and sweeping, without ever leaving behind the personal and profound, The Guest Book is a reminder of what novels do better than anything else. Without losing their specificity, three generations of Milton women reveal something about every family, the secrets and unspoken truths that color everything that happens to us. This is a book you will be dying to talk to someone about.” —Arthur Phillips, author of The Tragedy of Arthur and Prague
“Breathtaking…Blake saturates each scene with sensuous and emotional vibrancy while astutely illuminating sensitive moral quandaries. Blake deftly interrogates the many shades of prejudice and ‘the ordinary, everyday wickedness of turning away.’ Blake’s brilliant and ravishing novel promises to hit big.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Spanning three generations of Miltons, The Guest Book deserves a spot on your summer TBR in 2019.” —Bustle
“The story of the Miltons engages not just with history and politics, but with the poetry of the physical world. This novel sets out to be more than a juicy family saga—it aims to depict the moral evolution of a part of American society. Its convincing characters and muscular narrative succeed on both counts.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“This powerful family saga…is potent and mesmerizing.” —Publishers Weekly
“Blake is a masterful storyteller, whose past novel, The Postmistress, won considerable acclaim. I believe The Guest Book will as well.” —San Diego Jewish World
“A juicy family saga and an examination of the American elite.” —Refinery29
Praise for Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress
“Great books give you a feeling that you miss all day until you finally get to crawl back inside those pages again. The Postmistress is one of those rare books. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.” —Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help
“Some novels we savor for their lapidary prose, others for their flesh and blood characters, and still others for a sweeping narrative arc that leaves us light-headed and changed; Sarah Blake’s masterful The Postmistress serves us all this and more.” —Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog
“Even readers who don’t think they like historical novels will love this one and talk it up to their friends. Highly recommended for all fans of beautifully wrought fiction.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Blake captures two different worlds…with a deft sense of character and plot, and a perfect willingness to take on big, complex questions.” —Publishers Weekly
“To open Blake’s novel… is to enter a slipstream, so powerful are its velocity, characters, and drama.” —ALA Booklist, starred review
“The Postmistress belongs in what Gellhorn called ‘the permanent and necessary’ library.” —Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and Devotion
“Hits hard and pushes buttons expertly…Ms. Blake writes powerfully about the fragility of life….” —The New York Times