For My Ears: The Guestbook by Sarah Blake


A lifetime of secrets. A history untold. 

No. It is a simple word, uttered on a summer porch in 1936. And it will haunt Kitty Milton for the rest of her life. Kitty and her husband, Ogden, are both from families considered the backbone of the country. But this refusal will come to be Kitty’s defining moment, and its consequences will ripple through the Milton family for generations. For while they summer on their island in Maine, anchored as they are to the way things have always been, the winds of change are beginning to stir. 

In 1959 New York City, two strangers enter the Miltons’ circle. One captures the attention of Kitty’s daughter while the other makes each of them question what the family stands for. This new generation insists the times are changing. And in one night, everything does.

So much so that in the present day, the third generation of Miltons doesn’t have enough money to keep the island in Maine. Evie Milton’s mother has just died, and as Evie digs into her mother’s and grandparents’ history, what she finds is a story as unsettling as it is inescapable, the story that threatens the foundation of the Milton family myth.

Moving through three generations and back and forth in time, The Guest Book asks how we remember and what we choose to forget. It shows the untold secrets we inherit and pass on, unknowingly echoing our parents and grandparents. Sarah Blake’s triumphant novel tells the story of a family and a country that buries its past in quiet, until the present calls forth a reckoning.

While I listened to this one while driving around this summer, I almost wished that I had gotten it as a book as I really needed to pay attention to it and that’s hard to do in traffic! This was the story of a family that moved across time, but not chronologically, and I had moments of confusion. At the end of the book I had questions: How/why did one character drown? Who was one character’s father? What did I miss? None of my friends were able to answer me. The audio felt super long to me (but not boring) and a quick check just showed me that it’s almost 500 pages. One note that seriously irritated me was that the narrator referred to this wealthy family attending “Groton” but pronounced it, on at least two occasions, as “Grow-ton”. Groton is a very famous prep school that is alive and well today, so a quick check would tell the people directing this audio that it is pronounced “Graw-tin” with no long /o/. Somebody make a note of it!

I’d love to discuss this book with someone who also read it. I felt that Ms. Blake made some statements through her novel regarding race, class, and gender that the reader should not overlook. It would make a great book club pick!

Overall, I really liked it and would look to read more by this author.

(purchased with an audible credit)

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