Book Review: The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen

The Summer We Lost Her
Tish Cohen
Paperback: 352 pages – $11.59
Publisher: Gallery Books (June 4, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1501199684
ISBN-13: 978-1501199684
e-book – $12.99


It’s been a busy—and expensive—few years for Matt and Elise Sorenson, and their young daughter Gracie, whom they affectionately call Little Green. Matt, a Manhattan lawyer, has just been offered a partnership, and Elise’s equestrian ambitions as a competitive dressage rider may finally vault her into the Olympics. But her long absences from home and endless hours of training have strained their relationship nearly to the breaking point.

Now they’re spending a few weeks in the Adirondacks, preparing to sell the valuable lakefront cabin owned by Matt’s late grandfather, who raised him after his parents died. It’s been in Matt’s storied family for generations, and both he and Elise agree it’s time to let it go. But the cabin holds different memories for each of them. And as they navigate those memories–and come face to face with Matt’s teenage crush, now an unnervingly attractive single mother living right next door–Gracie disappears without a trace.

Faced with the possibility that they’ll never see their daughter again, Elise and Matt struggle to come to terms with what their future holds. The fate of the family property, the history of this not-so-tiny town, and the limits of Matt and Elise’s love for each other—indeed, what both thought they knew of each other all these years–is inextricably bound up with Gracie’s disappearance. Over the course of Cohen’s luminous novel, everything for the Sorenson family will change–the messy tangle of their past, the harrowing truth of their present, and whether or not their love will survive a parent’s worst nightmare.


Maybe it’s because I’m a horse lover, but I was immediately drawn to the character of Elise and her determination to work as hard as necessary in order to qualify for the Olympic team in dressage. I could feel the pain of the tough decisions she has to make along the way and really didn’t fault her for giving it her all. To come within inches of your dream makes it incredibly difficult to walk away, especially such an incredible dream. Ask any Olympian.

That’s why I, as a mother, didn’t judge her for any of her actions. Initially, I did want her to tell Matt something about his grandfather, Nate, but as the story progressed I admired Elise even more for protecting Matt from that horrible truth. I also understood the decision by the author to keep this hidden from Matt. I can’t say what this secret is, as the reader needs to find this out in just the right place in the story.

As I read the book, I came to appreciate more and more the way the author wove the backstory of the characters in and out of the main plot line. There is a fine art to this ability to give a little, then give a little bit more, and I applaud Cohen for mastering that art so exquisitely.

Through it all – the upheavals in the marriage as cracks appeared and secrets tumbled out, the horrifying days of not knowing what happened to Gracie, the pain  inflicted on the parents as the days march on with no word of Gracie, I loved this story. And I loved Matt and Elise and Gracie.

There were several life-lessons I highlighted in the book including this one from a woman talking to Elise after Gracie has disappeared. “Your heart is broken. You’re afraid for your daughter’s life, and you’re questioning every decision you’ve ever made. I expect every day until you find your daughter will be infinitely worse. And you may not have even reached bottom. When you do, you will stumble. You will fall. But after that, you’ll climb. It’s what we do as mothers. Because no matter how vicious that inner voice can be – and, holy hell, what a heartless bitch it is – we are made to survive. And you will survive this.”

I celebrate strong women and Elise, and the woman who created her, stand tall in that group.




Tish Cohen is the author of The Summer We Lost Her (in development for TV series) and Town House, Commonwealth Writers Prize finalist for Best First Book (in development for feature film). Other books include bestsellers Inside Out Girl and The Truth About Delilah Blue.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top