In Print : Home is where the yacht is
"Thru the Chairs: A Novel," Carole Dee, Wheatmark, 2010, 259 ppg. $19.95.
"Thru the Chairs" marks the debut novel of Carole Dee, a longtime seasonal Island resident.
Ms. Dee's first novel follows Mrs. Vendetti as she supports her husband's dream of going "thru the chairs" at the Briar Ridge Yacht Club. For those readers unfamiliar with the term "thru the chairs," it describes an officer's three-year passage from Rear Commodore to Vice Commodore, and finally to Commodore.
As the wife of an officer attempting this journey, Mrs. Vendetti must play a range of roles to help her husband. At different moments she must be as sharp as a politician, as loving as a mother hen, or as organized as a CEO. She must also balance these roles while maintaining her own family. Luckily, Mrs. Vendetti turns out to be a very resilient character, who manages these tasks with aplomb.
The author takes Mrs. Vendetti through this story with a good dose of humor, yet also somber reflection. For instance, when describing her boat, Mrs. Vendetti comically explains, "We named her 37 Park Avenue so when contractors called to speak to Tony [her husband], I could say, 'He is at 37 Park Ave.," and no one would know the better." On the other end, after the club has hosted orphans at a Christmas party, Mrs. Vendetti ponders: "I thought of all the people who adopted children. I wished more people did. I have often said that loneliness is a terrible disease, but I had never before realized children got it too." It is Ms. Dee's ability to balance both ends of Mrs. Vendetti's perspective that makes "Thru the Chairs" an interesting read.
The characters in "Thru the Chairs" go through many ups and downs and are confronted at various times with death, sex, love, and loss. However, by relying on each other, these characters get through the hardest episodes and enhance the joy of the happy events. Ms. Dee's ultimate message seems to be the importance of the extended family that the yacht club offers. This point is one that many Island residents and visitors can relate to: community bolsters the people within it, in good and bad times.
When asked why she decided to write this story, she explained: "I told this story because I find that visiting yacht clubs was almost like visiting an extended family. You were always so welcomed. The atmosphere and surroundings were a comfort. You actually became one of the family." However, she maintains that the book is not autobiographical - although she allows, "the characters are different people I met through the years all rolled up into one." Since Ms. Dee has lived on the Vineyard for 30 years, Islanders may recognize some of the characters' traits.
The author first came to the Vineyard because her husband had lived here since he was seven. She describes her first trip to the Vineyard as a magical experience: "On my first visit, I cruised by on my husband's boat. When we entered into the lagoon in Oak Bluffs, I remember thinking that God must have dropped pieces of heaven from the earth and vowed I would always be a part of this beautiful place."
So far, she has managed to keep this vow. She loves living on the Vineyard. Her favorite place is Farm Neck Golf Course. For her, it is a special place because it incorporates friends and nature. "I love being with my gal pals and walking along the course. You experience nature everywhere around you. You smell the ocean, the woods have such musical sounds, and the 14th hole says it all."
Ms. Dee's devotion to beauty, the ocean, friends, and family is the exact reason that "Thru the Chairs" works as a slice-of-life novel. It celebrates the best parts of life, and gives the reader hope for the hardest parts.
"Thru the Chairs" is available at Bunch of Grapes.
Alexa Dooseman divides her time between San Francisco and Oak Bluffs.