Sasha and Ray share three sisters – practical and newly, hopelessly in love Emma, magical, ethereal Quinn, and gorgeous, not-sure-who-she-is-yet Mattie – and a bedroom in their family’s summer house on Long Island, but they’ve never met. They stand on opposite sides of the divide created by the colossal earthquake of Sasha’s dad Robert and Ray’s mom Lila’s ugly divorce. The house is the only thing neither could let go – in Lila’s family for generations, but bought by Robert when his new wife’s family finances self-destructed. Neither Lila nor Robert was willing to give it up to the other, so now every summer Sunday the house changes residents – with only Emma, Quinn, and Mattie able to cross the line in the sand.
Sasha and Ray have an entire childhood of shared memories – Lego cities (Sasha and Ray, adding to it on alternate weeks), plants loved (Sasha) and neglected (Ray), bed made (Sasha) and unmade (Ray), toothpaste in the sink (Ray) and clothes left in the bed (Sasha), and book reports on To Kill A Mockingbird (Sasha and Ray). In the summer, each one is only a little more than half of a whole person, an outlier and a newcomer to an old history of secrets and lies between their parents, existing to their sisters only in the other’s absence.
When Emma gets Sasha and Ray each half a job stocking shelves at the local grocery store, their lives get even closer. The demands of Manager Francis, a young man with a shiny new MBA and an old, still shiny sense of self-importance, force email contact and, for the first time, Ray starts to get a sense of who Sasha is beyond her shoes and the scent of her shampoo. Sasha starts to wonder about her not-brother, the boy she’s shared a crib, toys, a bed, a bathroom, and a plant with her whole life. But can two people born on either side of such a great fault line in their family ever inhabit the same space at the same time?
This is a rich summer story of family, old secrets, new love, and all the ways that we fall apart and come together. I love how all the siblings’ stories have a place here – Emma’s love story, the quiet magic of Quinn’s peace-making, Mattie’s journey of self-discovery, and Ray and Sasha’s agonizing almost-touching lives. Stack The Whole Thing Together on your porch pile of books to be savored this summer alongside your battered copies of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Jennifer E. Smith’s books along with a big pitcher of lemonade, a box of Kleenex, and a lot of pillows, because you won’t want to put this one down!