barefoot beach book coverReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

It’s summertime, and since I live nowhere near an ocean, I get to live vicariously through fictional characters who do. Such was the draw for me to get lost in Barefoot Beach by Toby Devens, an author I tried out for the first time. Based on the back cover synopsis, I pictured the structure of the book to be something like Wendy Wax’s Ten Beach Road series, where chapters alternate between different characters and their trials, while focusing on the bonds of their friendships.

In Barefoot Beach, Nora is the focal point of the story. It’s been eight years since she lost her husband, and she hasn’t really moved forward with her life. She remains loyal to his memory and their quaint beach home. But now finances are running low and Nora must come up with a plan to continue putting her son through college, all the while pondering whether a crush she has on a former client could develop into something more. Meanwhile, Nora’s friends have their own issues—Margo suspects her husband Pete is cheating, and Emine has a rebellious teenage daughter.

Though the book is advertised to be about the bonds of friendship, I just didn’t feel it. Margo and Emine have fairly developed stories, but I think it would have served the book better if entire chapters had shone the spotlight on them rather than having their story arcs thrown in along when Nora happened to also be included in the scene.

For me, there was just too much to focus on in the novel, leaving it kind of a mess to sift through. Just a few things you’ll encounter if you choose to read this poolside or on the beach over the summer: Nora and her son Jack meet his sperm donor, Nora figures out job plans and what to do with her house, Nora and Scott fall for each other, Ermine’s mother-in-law causes dissonance in the house, Margo suspects Pete is cheating…and there are quite a few other minor story arcs, too.

Barefoot Beach would have been a far more interesting read to me if the book had only focused on a few story arcs rather than cramming so many into one book. As a reader and a freelance editor, I was most intrigued by Nora’s involvement with her late husband’s to-be-posthumously-published book (this never really got wrapped up to my satisfaction) and also wouldn’t have minded a bit more tension in Nora’s budding romance. I wasn’t as interested in the sperm donor aspect; this didn’t add much to the story overall for me. Ermine and Margo were decent characters, but again I would have liked to see the focus on them just a little bit more. Overall, this was somewhat of a forgettable read for me, but I can see the appeal for some readers to this type of book.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.