BOOK REVIEW: Serendipity

Serendipity by Becky Chalsen
Becky Chalsen is also the author of “Kismet,” published in 2023.

Book Review/Rita Plush


by Becky Chalsen



Last summer, film and TV executive Becky Chalsen turned her writerly talents to a novel set on Fire Island. She liked the locale so much – she’s had a home on the Island for decades – she ferried a new crew of beach lovers to “Serendipity,” a summer share house in Ocean Beach. There, readers will find Maggie Monroe, 25, and at leisure from her screenwriting job (tinsel town didn’t turn out as planned).

Suddenly back in a sublet in NYC after six years trying to make it big in Hollywood, she spots a Facebook post. Before you can say sunscreen and sand, she’s part of an old high school friend group in their summer rental. But if Maggie’s been hoping for some sun-kissed bliss for the newly unemployed, the girl has a way to go. The mess she left before she hopped a plane and traded time zones needs cleanup – bigtime.

For starters, her breakup with her boyfriend Mac broke his heart. She’s barely kept up with Liz, her best friend since kindergarten. (Is there any excuse for her not writing or calling when Liz’s mom died?) It’s a tossup – or throwdown. Whom does Maggie dread seeing the most?

Matters get more complicated when Maggie discovers Liz is engaged to Mac’s twin brother, Cam. And Mac has a new girlfriend – “interpretive entrepreneur” and Prada-loving princess Robyn, “perched on strappy high heels with black leather shorts.” Doesn’t she know denim and flip-flops are de rigueur? She seems such an un-Mac choice for Maggie’s level-headed ex. Is this an infatuation on his part, or are they for real? Maggie wonders, as her rekindled feelings for him set sparks flying.

Meanwhile, bride-to-be Liz is having some serious problems of her own. Cam, “the best decision [she] had ever made,” has been “scaring her” with his drinking. Is her lost engagement ring an omen of things to come? An end to her happily-ever-after of “never going to be alone again.” And his mom, Roseanne, showing up unannounced and uninvited to Liz’s Say Yes to the Dress moment. Is she just trying to be helpful with her wedding input, or will she be the meddling mother-in-laws folks joke about? The idea makes Liz long for her mother, Nancy, who can’t be part of this momentous event. And … can Maggie patch things up with her friend, “the closest thing [Liz] ever had to a sister?”

Within the three weekends at Serendipity that stretch through the summer, and the between time spent in the city, Maggie tries to get a better understanding of the person she is, and the person she’d like to be. She faces some hard truths, but there’s still that screenplay she wrote back in LA that her boss from hell trashed. Is it worthless after all? The Fire Island Film Festival might be the way to find out. Does Maggie have the courage to submit her work?

It seems fear is in freefall on the Island, and blue skies and boozy Rocket Fuels can’t take the edge off Liz’s anxiety. Artist and fashion designer extraordinaire, she’s been accepted into a program in Milan that could be a boon to her career. Italy calls, but what about her marriage plans? Should they stay, or should they go? Bigger problem: Cam hasn’t a clue she even entered the competition.

At its core, the book is about friendship and the honesty and forgiveness it takes to maintain its lasting bond. It’s also about change and the burden of secrets, and how a group of twentysomethings learn to be themselves, by themselves. How they own up to their mistakes and missed opportunities. Growing up is hard to do. Even for moms.

I like that Chalsen tosses Roseanne into the mix. She does land with a bit of thud, but it’s never too late to learn.

To make it all go down easy, there’s a surprise wedding that ties all concerns and worries into a tidy knot; this is, after all, a light, summer read.