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Cape May: Book summary and reviews of Cape May by Chip Cheek

Cape May

by Chip Cheek

Cape May by Chip Cheek X
Cape May by Chip Cheek
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  • Published Apr 2019
    256 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

A mesmerizing debut novel by Chip Cheek, Cape May explores the social and sexual mores of 1950s America through the eyes of a newly married couple from the genteel south corrupted by sophisticated New England urbanites.

Late September 1957. Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara's lover; and Alma, Max's aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.

Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Yes, betrayals are at the core of what happens at Cape May , but, beyond that, this remarkable debut novel offers a sobering reminder of how the possibilities of life, when first encountered, often carry their own riptide." - Booklist

"Cheek does a good job with his cast; Henry and Effie are finely drawn and their slide from innocence starkly depicted. The novel's ending is particularly startling—a memorable final note in this cogent examination of marital infidelity and betrayal." - Publishers Weekly

"Cheek's glamorous and nostalgic first novel is an atmospheric tale of sexual longing and loss in 1950s America that nods to classics like The Great Gatsby and Revolutionary Road." - The Independent (UK)

"Earthy and sensual, raw and real, Cape May is an exquisitely crafted exploration of young love, the power of desire, and the lifelong ramifications of choices made in an instant. Cheek's virtuosic prose reads like a modern classic, piercing through the veneer of male sexual fantasies of the 1950s and rendering a heartbreaking portrait of a man―and a marriage―undone by betrayal." - Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light

"Cape May is a perfectly mixed cocktail of beauty, desire, and heady desperation. In his gorgeous debut novel, Chip Cheek offers his readers a portrait of mid-century America and the timeless allure of love on the rocks." - Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Corpus Christi and internationally bestselling Remember Me Like This

"What a treat. Glamorous and nostalgic and very sexy, Cape May is a novel about marriage, lust, shabby seaside towns and lots of gin. Brilliantly unsettling―one of those books that stays with you." - Paula Hawkins, #1New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water

This information about Cape May was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cathryn Conroy

Seduction, Sex, and the Scandal and Sorrow of Betrayal: An Intense, Overplayed Story
This debut novel by Chip Cheek is about seduction and sex, as well as the scandal, sorrow, and reverberating effects of betrayal.

It's late September 1957. Henry, 20, and Effie, 18, who are from the rural and somewhat backwards town of Signal Point, Georgia, have just gotten married and are spending their two-week honeymoon in Effie's uncle's cottage in Cape May, New Jersey. Unbeknownst to them until they arrived, it's the off season. While a few stores and restaurants are open, the place is pretty much deserted. After one boring week, they are ready to hightail it back South when these naïve newlyweds meet sophisticated New Yorkers Clara, Max, and Alma, who live in the house across the street. Gin-soaked, party-hearty evenings follow one after another as the entire town becomes their bacchanal playground and nothing is seemingly off limits. When Effie gets a cold and takes to her bed with a fever and the sniffles, Henry and Alma start what becomes a torrid love affair. Of course, this secret is exposed, and the scandal and betrayal that result are intense and powerful.

While it's a compelling, albeit overplayed, story of passion gone wrong, I found it difficult as a reader to watch Henry destroy through his uncontrolled lust what we were led to think he held so dear: his love for Effie. Henry was a virgin when he married Effie, and it seems unrealistic that in a matter of days after having sex for the first time he is so capable and willing to destroy the marital boundaries he only just vowed to obey.

The characters are quite colorful, and the descriptions of Cape May are delightful. In addition, I do give the author credit for the last chapter. It was nothing like what I was expecting, but it works surprisingly well. Still, the novel relies far too much on the many explicit sex scenes to carry the plot forward and keep the reader engaged, and somehow this just feels cheap. Hence, four stars instead of five.

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Author Information

Chip Cheek

Chip Cheek's stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Washington Square, and other journals and anthologies. He has been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Tin House Summer Writers' Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as an Emerging Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation. Cape May is his debut novel. He lives in El Segundo, California, with his wife and baby daughter.

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