The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  16,261 Ratings  ·  1,443 Reviews
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The Identicals
by Elin Hilderbrand
Nantucket is only two and a half hours away from Martha's Vineyard by ferry. But the two islands might as well be worlds apart for a set of identical twin sisters who have been at odds for years. Just because twins look exactly the same doesn't mean they're anything alike--and Tabitha and Harper Frost have spent their whole lives trying to prove this point. When a family crisis forces them to band together--or at least appear to--the twins come to realize that the special bond that they share is more important than the resentments that have driven them apart.
Set on the elite islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, The Identicals follows twin sisters who, after years of estrangement, trade lives in order to save their relationship. Mistaken identity hijinks and plenty of romance ensue.
— Book of the Month


For me, Elin Hilderbrand has become synonymous with summer. Her new release means it’s time for my annual trip to Nantucket—okay, not really, but a girl can dream, right? Or remind her husband incessantly, for the entire time it takes to read said book, that they need to find time to take an actual trip to the island. So, I’ll just go with, my proverbial bags are packed instead—bikini, flip-flops and floppy hat—and I’m ready to stick my toes in the sand, bask in the sun and let everything, other than the sound of the waves, drift away with her new book in my hands. Sounds like heaven, right?

A little sibling rivalry is only natural, but what about being estranged from your twin sister for fourteen years? The really incredible part about it, Tabitha and Harper have lived only eleven miles apart for all of that time. Sure, they’ve resided on different islands, one on Nantucket and the other on Martha’s Vineyard, separated by miles of ocean water, but still. Is there any worthy excuse for not making the short ferry ride over to see your sister?

Surprisingly enough, the downfall of their relationship started with a game of rock, paper, scissors. And not just any game. This particular bout with chance was the determining factor—which twin was going to live which parent, after the divorce. With a win, Harper ended up on Martha’s Vineyard with their easy-going dad, while Tabitha's loss landed her on Nantucket, doomed to live under the weight of their mother’s expectations. Can you say resentment?

Fast forward and the twins are now pushing forty and living completely different lives. Harper is pretty irresponsible and has garnered a bad reputation, only made worse by her latest error in judgement. Meanwhile, Tabitha is a single-mother to an out of control teenager, working in her mother’s failing store, and struggling to move on from her past. It takes the death of their father to bring the twins face-to-face and align the stars for a 'switch' of sorts. A timeout from their actual lives might be just what they need to gain some perspective.

It’s not an easy thing, getting past the years of resentment, hurt and ultimately blame. High on the drama, gossip and family dynamics, Elin Hilderbrand keeps things interesting, to say the least. Rest assured, there isn’t a dull moment with these ladies around.

From the acknowledgements, you can tell this one was sort of near and dear to Elin Hilderbrand’s heart, being a twin sibling herself and of course, calling Nantucket home. Throughout the story, she pays homage to the things that make Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard special; it’s a love letter of sorts to the two islands and might even come in handy as a travel guide *wink, wink*. She feeds into the apparent rivalry going on between the two islands, which I thought was was a nice touch and fitting for this story of twin siblings.

Favorite Quote
“The most underrated force at work in the universe is that of coincidence. And yet who among us hasn’t been at it’s mercy?”

Summer isn’t official to me until I’ve read Hilderbrand’s latest book and when I saw that The Identicals was a book about sisters, I was pretty excited. Sister relationships always intrigue me, but a book about twin sisters is even more appealing to me, there’s just something fascinating about the bond they share and the unspoken connection between them. Full of Hilderbrand’s trademark style, this book delivered on all levels and I think it’s the author at her best.

Following in the footsteps of her other books, this is told through various perspectives. Tabitha, Harper and Ainsley all narrate and as Ainsley is Tabitha’s teenaged daughter, it lent a YA feel to her chapters that spiced things up. Tabitha and Harper are twins that have been estranged for fourteen years and they wind up switching locations for the summer; Tabitha heads to Martha’s Vineyard and Harper heads to Nantucket. Apparently there’s a rivalry between the two places and the women both vehemently believe that their home is the superior spot. Part of the charm of Hilderbrand’s books, for me at least, is the idyllic setting of Nantucket. I really enjoyed the addition of Martha’s Vineyard this time, it was cool to get a glimpse of somewhere new in addition to the comfort of the Nantucket setting.

There is a reason that Hilderbrand is hailed as the queen of the summer beach read, she’s more than earned that title, this is her nineteenth novel after all. But it’s more than that, she really has all of the necessary components to create that perfect blend of an ideal summer read. There’s juicy scandal, gossip, family dysfunction, decadent and mouthwatering food descriptions, rich characterization and a vivid setting. To me, nothing is more purely entertaining than one of her books and I’m always completely wrapped up in the world she crafts.

For an easy, breezy beach read, look no further than the works of Elin Hilderbrand—her latest is so evocative you can almost hear the sound of the waves and feel the sand between your toes. 
Set on the elite islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, The Identicals follows twin sisters who, after years of estrangement, trade lives in order to save their relationship. Mistaken identity hijinks and plenty of romance ensue.
— Book of the Month

This is Hilderbrand's usual entertaining story of family dynamics filled with the tastes and scenery of Nantucket, but in this book she adds Martha's Vineyard to the mix. 
Despite finding the characters pretty much unlikable in the beginning (which almost turned me off from continuing but GoodReads reports were so positive I decided to keep reading), they redeemed themselves as the story progressed. There were no big surprises during the course of the story and it ended up pretty much the way I suspected it would.

I do have one issue about how the characters behaved. I'm very sensitive to not drinking and driving and the main characters did a little too much of that, especially Harper when in the beginning she was imbibing a six-pack of beer along with Jagermeister shots while driving to meet her lover at a beach.

For me, Hilderbrand's books run hot and tepid with this one being somewhere in the middle.

Harper and Tabitha Frost--identical twins--grew up thick as thieves, the best of friends. But their parents' divorce at seventeen cruelly separated the girls, with each being allocated to a parent and sent off to live with them on a separate island. 
Harper goes with their more laid-back father, Billy, to Martha's Vineyard, while Tabitha goes with their formidable and exacting mother, renowned fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. The twins' relationship is then further destroyed by a tragic event in early adulthood. They've barely spoken since, and it's only the death of their father that forces them to reluctantly reunite on the Vineyard for Billy's memorial service. It also allows Harper a chance to see her popular but rebellious teenage niece, Ainsley, who is struggling under Tabitha's freestyle, lax parenting. Harper and Tabitha are set in their ways--and resolute about never forming a friendship. Can Billy's death change the way the twins feel, or is it too late?

I've read a handful of Hilderbrand's novels by now and many of her books have a similar, beachy feel, often with a focus on twins (this makes more sense now, knowing that Hilderbrand is herself a twin) and wayward teens. There's always rampant gossip on Nantucket, which is her usual locale, yet you'll always be left wanting to visit (and in this case, the Vineyard as well). Things are typically a bit predictable and there's always a romance or two thrown in.

Still, this book especially peaked my interest as I have (young) twin daughters. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot and quite captivated by the book. It's a perfect beach read. Obviously you're not going to find a literary masterpiece, but if you're looking for escape, it's perfect. The plot is exciting, the characters complex enough (and up to their elbows in trouble), and the summery location makes you feel as if you're at the beach, experiencing the crazy gossip as it happens. I found myself quite drawn to all the characters--which doesn't always happen in novels like this--and especially liked headstrong teenage Ainsley and poor Harper, who just can't seem to get her life together.

Sure, things happen rather as anticipated at times and some of the characters' changes are pretty foreseeable. But they are a fun group and the supporting cast really adds depth to the story. The epilogue is a cute addition, as well. Overall, this is a pleasant, entertaining beach read and a step above many in the genre.

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