When 71-year-old Charlotte Perkins wins a 10-day Mediterranean cruise, she dreams of an unforgettable vacation with her adult children, all together again. What she doesn't acknowledge is the three generations of family dysfunction that would travel with them. In Amanda Eyre Ward's warmhearted novel The Jetsetters, the Perkins family secrets reveal themselves even before they set sail.
Long-time widow Charlotte lives contentedly in her Savannah condo, soothing loneliness with walks, wine and steamy novels. Ignored by her parents and raised by a nanny, she acquiesced in marriage to cold and distant Winston, and their three children grew up targets of his alcoholic rage. By the time she was six, Lee was striving to protect little brother Cord and baby Regan. Winston's death when they were young was liberating but also haunting. As Charlotte plans the cruise, she has no idea that the siblings' lives are imploding. Lee's acting career, romance and finances are failing. Cord, in a risky business venture, is tenuously staying sober and giddy with love for Giovanni--but has yet to tell his family he's gay. Regan, an apparently happy wife and mother, knows her husband is unfaithful. But they gamely board the Splendido Marveloso, bearing the baggage of their delusions and deceptions.
Fluorescent drinks, Fun Day at Sea parties, quirky shipmates and quick peeks at Europe's sights are entertaining, but the family's angst isn't masked. Togetherness awakens their childhood affections and support, however, and the post-cruise forecast--especially Charlotte's--is hopeful in Ward's (The Same Sky; The Nearness of You) heartening and tender novel. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, independent reviewer