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Book Review: Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano

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Disclaimer: The following review contains spoilers for the novel “Save What’s Left” by Elizabeth Castellano.

When Kathleen Deane’s husband drops the bombshell that he’s no longer happy with their life and marriage, Kathleen is left feeling bewildered. After living in Kansas and being married for three decades, happiness wasn’t something she had expected or even considered.

But with her husband off on a journey of self-discovery, Kathleen finds herself contemplating her own desires. Her thoughts lead her to the charming beach town of Whitbey, a place she’s only seen through her childhood friend Josie’s idyllic Christmas letters.

However, the reality of Whitbey turns out to be far from Josie’s picturesque descriptions. Kathleen’s new neighbor, Rosemary, is difficult to get along with, and the town’s supervisor ignores her pleas for help.

To top it all off, her absentee neighbors are constructing a massive eyesore of a holiday home right next to her cozy cottage. As Kathleen becomes entangled in the fight against the construction and the town’s politics, she discovers that Whitbey might not be the fairytale she envisioned, but it just might be exactly what she needs.

Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano is best described as the “un-beach read.” It peels back the curtain on life in a beach town, revealing the true cost of a pretty view. The story is narrated from the candid and irreverent perspective of Kathleen, a newcomer turned local, and it explores themes of forgiveness, fortitude, and second chances.

From the moment Kathleen embarks on her journey to Whitbey, the reader is treated to a hilarious and often outrageous adventure. Castellano’s writing is wickedly funny, and her debut novel unfurls in miserable yet gleeful detail the soul-sucking nightmare of owning a house on the Long Island oceanfront.

Kathleen’s experiences and misadventures are both relatable and absurd, as she navigates the challenges of small-town politics, battles with construction violations, and gets caught up in FBI investigations.

The characters in Save What’s Left are delightfully flawed and eccentric. Kathleen, with her sharp wit and unwavering determination, is a memorable protagonist. She may not always make the best decisions or prioritize her relationships effectively, but her flaws only make her more human and relatable. The supporting cast, including the cantankerous Rosemary and Kathleen’s wayward husband Tom, add depth and humor to the story.

While the book promises a light-hearted charm and escapism, some readers may find themselves taken aback by the dark humor and the protagonist’s occasional unlikeable traits.

Kathleen’s obsession with her neighbor and the town’s affairs can be overwhelming, and her neglect of her pregnant daughter raises eyebrows. However, these flaws add layers to Kathleen’s character and serve as reminders that real life is often messy and imperfect.

Despite the mixed feelings some readers may have, Save What’s Left holds the potential for an entertaining movie adaptation. The book is filled with scenes that have great cinematic potential, and with the right script, it could capture the quirkiness and humor of the story.

In conclusion, Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano is a funny and engaging debut novel that offers a refreshing twist on the beach read genre. It may not be the typical light-hearted and escapist summer read, but it captivates with its candid narrative and unforgettable characters.

If you’re in the mood for a book that combines humor, small-town drama, and a touch of self-discovery, Save What’s Left is well worth a read.

To read my book club questions for Save What’s Left, click here.