The Guest Book

The Guest Book

by Sarah Blake

Hardcover(Library Binding - Large Print)

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Instant New York Times Bestseller

The Guest Book is monumental in a way that few novels dare attempt.” —The Washington Post

The thought-provoking new novel by New York Times bestselling author 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781432866396
Publisher: Gale, A Cengage Company
Publication date: 06/26/2019
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 732
Sales rank: 154,893
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Sarah Blake is the author of the novels Grange House and the New York Times bestseller The Postmistress. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons.


Washington, DC

Date of Birth:

December 10, 1960

Place of Birth:

New York, NY


BA Yale College, 1983; MA San Francisco State University, 1991; PhD. New York University, 1996

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The Guest Book 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous 24 days ago
Breathtakingly beautiful family story. I could not put it down. I fell in love with the Milton’s and their triumphs and heartbreaks in the midst of a stunning seashore setting
Anonymous 15 days ago
Very difficult to keep up with the characters, the different time periods and who was whose relative. Would not suggest for my book club.
Anonymous 25 days ago
The depth of the characters and the intricacies of the times were so well depicted.
Anonymous 3 months ago
grandmareads102 4 months ago
The Guest Book is a beautifully written story that details the life of three generations of a wealthy and privileged American family. The author has a lyrical style that carries the story forward through the years. It details the political and racial upheaval that change the country's dynamics and changed the family's dynamics. The Milton's suffer tragedy and betrayal but they soldier on. Their Island retreat becomes their stability and refuge. I was caught up in their story. The characters reached out and pulled me in. The dialogue is beautifully written. I felt as if I was there moving through history as they struggled to adjust with the changes and expectations. Sarah Blake took my breath away with The Guest Book. It made me aware how the past and the present are intertwined. The truth wouldn't be buried and life comes full circle. This is a compelling book that left me overwhelmed. I received a copy of this book which I voluntarily read and reviewed. My comments are my honest opinion.
sjillis 3 months ago
Imperfect mothers have been on my mind today. There are some good ones—along with a fascinating family history—in THE GUEST BOOK. #ReadTheGuestBook #TheGuestBook #BookSharks #FlatironBooks In 1935, despite her husband’s frequent absences due to business in Germany, Kitty Milton is happy with her life on the Upper East Side. Until a tragedy takes their eldest child. Ogden Milton brings Kitty back to him by buying Crockett’s Island off the coast of Maine, which becomes Kitty’s refuge. There, their youngest child, Evelyn, is conceived. Twenty-four years later, the Miltons are celebrating Evelyn’s imminent marriage with a house party on the island. Moss Milton has invited two friends—Len Levy, an up & coming employee at the family firm, and Reg Pauling, an African-American photographer who is becoming Moss’s muse. Unfortunately, some of the Miltons and their WASP friends aren’t quite ready to socialize with a Jewish man and a black man. Particularly Kitty, who suspects Len’s interest in her older daughter, Joan. Nearly sixty years later, only the third generation of Miltons survives, and they are forced to confront not only the waning family fortunes but the secrets Kitty, Joan, and Evelyn kept. Unfortunately the systemic racism the Milton descendants are shocked to learn about in their family history is as present in 2019 as it was in 1959. Sarah Blake has crafted a superb multigenerational family saga filled with inspiration and truths about family relationships—sisterhood, in particular. As with many books that deal with uncomfortable subjects, THE GUEST BOOK is not always enjoyable to read, but is ultimately worth it.
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Anonymous 1 days ago
I read and enjoyed this author’s first novel, The Postmistress, so was thrilled to receive an e galley of her second novel, The Guest Book. The Guest Book was chosen as a Barnes and Noble book club read and it is easy to see why. This is the sort of novel that the reader wants to talk about with others who spent time getting to know the Miltons, their circle, and those who are on the outside of it. The story covers three generations in a narrative that moves back and forth in time, beginning with Ogden and Kitty. They appear to literally own all that they could ever want, even including an island in Maine that is central to the book. The next generation includes Moss, Evelyn and Joan. Children who grew up with so much and who each make decisions about how they want to live in the world. Their children form the book’s third generation. Other important characters are Leonard, who is Jewish and Reg who is African American. The world of these characters resembles the dance on the island late in the book. People dance with “their own” and occasionally with “others.” These interactions fuel the plot and thinking of the novel. This is a story about those with power who casually dislike those who are not like them. So…can Leonard, who is Jewish, ever truly be with Joan? Is there a reason that Reg, who is African American does not sign the guest book of the title? The reader spends much time with Kitty. No spoilers but several of her decisions, one casual and without awareness of the tragedy that will befall and one with knowledge of that but still a particular decision. The reader will be immersed in Kitty’s thoughts about the choices that she has made. It can be easy to dislike some of the characters for their choices. The author tries to show that life and decisions are complex, made for reasons that are not always clear and may or may not be regretted. Ms. Blake has a message that she would like readers to take away. Around it, she creates a novel of considerable depth. I highly recommend this one. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an e galley in exchange for an honest review.
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Beachbabe1 11 days ago
I have really tried with this book, considering the great reviews. But, I feel like I am slogging through it. I may not finish it. I read 15 pages and it puts me to sleep. I can tell where this is going, but I don't really care about any of thiese characters anymore. Going bck and forth in time is very confusing. I am a reader, but this book just doesn't do it for me.
Anonymous 13 days ago
I really enjoyed a lot of the book although parts of it were wordy, but it seemed to fall apart quickly at the end. So much unresolved. I felt like there were missing chapters. Could have been amazing...
Anonymous 14 days ago
It was okay - but kind of dragged!
FrancescaFB 29 days ago
Disappointing in that I expected better and bigger revelations.
Anonymous 3 months ago
“We were kind. We were generous. We do not owe, more than we could give,” Kitty Milford. This story follows generations of the wealthy, privileged Milford family from the early 1900s to present day. Led by patriarch, Ogden, and matriarch, Kitty Milford, they lived by rules that reflected the social norms of the times. There are secrets, sadness, love, and prejudice. At one point, Kitty makes a decision that will haunt her the rest of her life. Any time a book makes me feel uncomfortable because the description is so accurate the author has succeeded. The accounts of racism and hatred are appalling. This is an intense book, but well worth the time.
Anonymous 3 months ago
“We were kind. We were generous. We do not owe, more than we could give,” Kitty Milford. This story follows generations of the wealthy, privileged Milford family from the early 1900s to present day. Led by patriarch, Ogden, and matriarch, Kitty Milford, they lived by rules that reflected the social norms of the times. There are secrets, sadness, love, and prejudice. At one point, Kitty makes a decision that will haunt her the rest of her life. Any time a book makes me feel uncomfortable because the description is so accurate the author has succeeded. The accounts of racism and hatred are appalling. This is an intense book, but well worth the time.
beckwith_usa 3 months ago
Wars, plagues, names upon tombs tell us only what happened. But history lies in the cracks between. In the inexplicable, invisible turns—when someone puts a hand down, pushes open one particular gate, and steps through." Just as Professor Evie Milton challenges her students in the opening pages, Ms. Blake challenges the reader to acknowledge the words and fill in the cracks. I was completely swept away by the prose in this moving saga of the Milton Family, and was challenged to re-think how history bends in abstract and unexpected ways. A gravestone, a photo, a spoon, a toy car, are all markers of history - guiding the reader to enjoy the story and create a personal and profound connection to its message. Ms. Blake's cleverly crafted plot is unspooled with just enough tension to keep the pages turning. "The Guest Book" is sure to be received as a perfect summer read, best enjoyed in large portions
Susan1215 4 months ago
Magnificent. An epic family saga, filled with secrets, privilege and money. I was instantly swept away in this instant classic. We will be talking about this remarkable book for years to come.
medwards429 4 months ago
Thank you in advance to the publisher, Flat Iron Books for an Advanced Reader Copy to review. Tragedies, privilege, family secrets, deep prejudices, old ideas … an island. This World War II/Family Life/Literary fiction story spans over three generations of a once privileged family – the Milton family; told in four (4) parts over 45 chapters and nearly 500 pages. The story spans from about 1935-2019 (last entry in the Guest Book in 1959, and it’s been 60 years since). Once so rich the family owned an island, but in today’s time, the descendants can no longer afford to keep it. Evie soon learns a terrible truth about her grandparents, particularly her grandfather and his involvement in Germany. The story does go from the past to present without letting the reader know where/when they are in the story (with dates under the chapter, i.e.: August 1959, Present Day, etc.). Part I (page 1-119) of the book alternates between Kitty & Ogden Milton in the 1930’s with present-day Evie, Kitty’s granddaughter who is trying to come to terms with her late mother’s passing, her family’s truth, and the disposition of the island. The story starts in 1935 with Kitty and Ogden Milton – just before World War II. Their youngest son dies in a horrible accident, which continues to haunt Kitty throughout her life and is the catalyst for a decision she is forced to make. Milton purchases an island for Kitty, hoping to bring her back as he sees her as slipping away from him. The couple is content to ignore what is going on around them as it doesn’t affect them. Kitty is then asked to do someone a favor, but refuses, a refusal that will haunt her for the rest of her life. The first part ends before the US enters World War II and thus the reader is left to wonder – how did the Milton family react to something they thought wouldn’t happen? Part II (page 123-268) starts in Summer of 1959 with the grown Milton kids (Moss [Ogden Jr.], Joan, Evelyn), and builds from there what will soon happen in Part III, the heart of the story – which surprisingly is only 2-3 months in length. Again, some of the chapters unevenly alternate with Evie’s story. Kitty eventually learns how devastating her refusal was. Part III (272-458) continues from 1959, where part II left off with the alternating view points. It is here that contains the heart of the novel, taking the writer nearly 200 pages to get to the climax of the story. Since it is 1959, there are a lot of controversial social topics covered – however I don’t know that they were discussed as much or in that way at the time. Part IV (461-482) stays in the present day, rapidly sliding to an end of the saga. The reader is left not knowing what happens to the island, but learns who Evie really is. It is, on the surface, a stunningly poignant and challenging read. I would’ve liked to have seen the story expand more on World War II. I believe there were areas of the “family interaction” that could’ve been reduced in order to accommodate that. This book took 15 days to go through, so it was a difficult read (to be honest – basically a chore). Most of that difficultly was that I had a hard time finding any point where I could relate to them. Perhaps this was due to my disconnect with their privilege. I would recommend this book to those who are fans of the author, the genre, or the subject. A book to read, if only once in a lifetime.
Rhonda-Runner1 4 months ago
I have been struggling to get this book read for the past month and finally I had to skim the last 100 pages or so to do it. The book started out really slow for me and combined with the multitude of characters, along with the going back and forth between time/generations, it was a struggle to get through it. I was disappointed in it. Thank you Flatiron Books for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
DanieleK 4 months ago
THE GUEST BOOK tells the sweeping saga of three generations of the prestigious Milton Family. Told through the filter of three distinct eras, we meet Ogden and Kitty Milton in 1935, beautiful, wealthy, and content until tragedy strikes; the Milton children in 1959; their grandchildren in the present day. All of the threads are woven around the family’s summer island home. It is a close examination of privilege, family legacy, wealth and cultural inequalities, and it hones in on the personal perspectives and experiences that often make us blind. It is at times lovely and full of hope, but ultimately heartbreaking as no one is truly happy. Readers are left wondering what might have been had different choices been made. Author Sarah Blake’s writing is lavish, if a bit wandering at times, and the book is hefty at 480 pages (which I think could have been shaved down). Highly recommended. Many thanks to Flatiron Books for the opportunity to read an ARC of this title and voluntarily share my unbiased thoughts and opinions here.
MatteaLC 4 months ago
This is probably one of the most intense novels that I have read in awhile. Beautifully written, Sarah Blake develops this story with complex, very flawed characters. Weaving through three generations of silence, secretiveness, it eludes so much emotion as it focuses on the racism and dislike of those that were viewed as different that was passed along, although it was never really acknowledged! It isn’t a binge book and took me an unusually long 11 days to read it. I had to take it slowly in order to sort out the characters and how they fit. I received an ARC for my honest review, and I thank Flatiron Books for that. I really liked this book, it will stay with me, especially in today’s climate. I love this author, and felt the same about The Postmistress!! #TheGuestbook #SarahBlake #FlatironBooks
Peppyob 4 months ago
After reading the Guest Book with Sara Blake's beautiful style of prose, I finally understand the difference between general fiction and literary fiction. The Guest Book will be one of the most significant novels of 2019. I will definitely need to read it again. The Milton's, story unfolding from the 1930s to the present day is one powerful family saga. The novel is a testament to WASP culture in the U.S. wrought with racism and antisemitism. Secrets abound throughout the novel. Ogden and Kitty Milton, descendants of “Old Money," buy their own island in the 1930s to escape the real world. For many years, the island becomes their family's personal utopia. In 1959, an incident will occur that will change the family forever. The characters of the novel are so credible and have been brought to life through Ms Blake’s meticulous character development. I found the matriarch of the family, Kitty Milton to be a very complex character. Kitty cannot get past her privileged background. The decisions she makes, time and time again will haunt her forever. In the present era, the family wealth has diminished greatly. The heirs have to make a decision about what to do with the island. Kitty’s granddaughters, Evie and Min go to the island to tidy up loose ends and in the process uncover disturbing secrets about their family's history.