After a tragedy befalls the Milton family, Ogden Milton tries to console his wife by purchasing an island in Maine. That island, and its house, come to define and burnish the Milton family for three generations.
... dense, sprawling ... The novel moves fluidly between generations, often within the same chapter. No guideposts steer the reader through the numerous shifts in point-of-view. Blake seems to be advising readers to pay attention ... Racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism give the book much of its heart-crushing pathos ... a magnificent, big feast of a book. Richly plotted and powerfully written, The Guest Book also offers meaty themes and strong characters. It is a story that readers will welcome losing themselves in.
Blake is an accomplished storyteller...She's also hip to the fact that this kind of lush historical novel — tied to the annual visits of a wealthy clan gathering to crack lobster tails by the sea — absolutely reeks of off-putting privilege and literary mothballs. No matter: The Guest Book proudly owns the appeal of an old-fashioned sweeping storyline, and in so doing, complicates many of its characters beyond their shallow first impressions. In fact, one of the most engaging characters here defends the essential human yearning for a good story.
While the book offers a glimpse into the lives of the Miltons, it also reveals much about America – a place of such wildly disparate experiences ... Gliding back and forth across the generations, she captures the consequences of decisions, of buried secrets, and of shifting societal norms ... Some readers might find it difficult to garner sympathy for the Miltons, buffered as they are by wealth and privilege. Instead, they might want to look upon the book as a timely metaphor for the American story.