Like a glass of good pinot noir, Barbara Delinsky's The Vineyard
is best enjoyed slowly. The Vineyard
follows the triumphs and tragedies of the Seebrings, a wealthy family of vintners in Rhode Island. The story begins when recently widowed, 76-year-old Natalie Seebring announces her scandalous engagement to none other than the vineyard manager, Carl, whose social standing is, needless to say, several notches beneath the Seebrings'. Natalie's children, Susanne and Greg, are furious with their mother for marrying the help, and only six months after their father's death.
Besides her remarriage, Natalie is working on a family history project, one she hopes will explain all the love and loss she has endured before reaching happiness at long last. She recruits Olivia Jones to help with the project, and Olivia and her daughter Tess move out to the vineyard for the summer. Tension builds with the summer heat as the wedding approaches. To make matters worse, Carl's son Simon, the new vineyard manager, is coldly resentful of Olivia and Tess, who remind him of the wife and daughter he has lost. But amidst all this, Natalie Seebring's long-buried past is slowly revealed, and like a summer storm, the truth blows through the vineyard, leaving everything different in its wake.
Barbara Delinsky says she was influenced by Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation in writing The Vineyard, and Natalie Seebring is a fine tribute to the strong, silent Americans who made so many sacrifices during World War II. Keep a hankie close by when reading this one. Family tragedy, unlikely romance, and old wrongs finally made right will have you laughing and crying. --Francine McBride
From Publishers Weekly
Wine makers call its meritage: the commingling of several varietal wines into a product that can be marketed as a brand name, year after year. With this novel, the latest of 60-plus, veteran writer Delinsky has once again done exactly that, producing a fan-pleasing blend. At 35, Olivia Jones is a restorer of old photographs, and the mother, via a brief relationship, of a dyslexic, unhappy and bratty 10-year-old named Tess. Herself the daughter of a single mother who checked out as soon as Olivia turned 18, Olivia fantasizes about being related to Natalie Seebring, a client who is the strong-willed and manipulative matriarch of a dysfunctional family of Rhode Island wine makers. When Natalie offers to hire Olivia to be her memoirist and "personal buffer" for a summer, she jumps at the chance. Soon she is embroiled in the turmoil caused when septuagenarian widow Natalie decides to marry former vineyard manager Carl Burke. Natalie's middle-aged children object loudly, and several family employees resign in protest. Meanwhile, Olivia is attracted to Carl's son (and successor as vineyard manager), Simon, who has become a solitary workaholic since the death of his entire family four years earlier in a sailing accident. The only suspense in the slow-moving plot comes at the end, when a hurricane threatens the wine crop, coinciding with the emotional storms produced by Natalie's easily anticipated revelations about her early life; the style is undistinguished, replete with clich?s and italics. Readers who prefer full-bodied novels are likely to find this story bland, thin and cloying. Those fond of literary Beaujolais nouveau, however, to be gulped down on a summer's day without critique, will enjoy this practiced blend of pop psychology, wine-making lore, learning-disability theory and sensuality. (June)
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