June Costas was 17-years old when she met Mick Reva and in no time he had captivated her heart, mind and soul. They married with their first child, Nina, already on the way. Mick was wickedly handsome, extremely talented and soon reached success as a singer, performing in famous venues far away from their home in Malibu. He was charming and attracted people effortlessly, including beautiful women who he never seemed to be able to resist. June had abandoned her own dreams for this man who kept abandoning her until four children later, after each time he wormed his way back in until finally he never returned. See, to understand those four children (Nina, Jay, Hud & Kit), it’s essential to know their history because both parents left an imprint that defined them as adults and drew them to that Malibu surf.
Fast forward twenty years later and it’s the annual Reva family party that is infamous in Malibu. But in the years since they first began hosting the event, it’s become well known beyond Malibu because of the high profile success of Nina, Jay and Hud but especially because of those they’re connected to. It’s in the background for the siblings as they each are focused on their personal life crises. Nina is married to a top ranked tennis player who just walked out on her for another woman; Jay has a medical condition that threatens his livelihood; Hud is in a secret relationship that may disrupt the family; and Kit is grappling with her own self awareness. I was fascinated with them all as that party loomed ominously.
I’d read reviews of this story that were critical, focusing on the debauchery of the party. I firmly believe that the audiobook version made it clearer that the party was a secondary element despite its outrageousness. Julia Whelan always delivers a wonderful performance but here she showed some serious skill in not only distinguishing each of the siblings but telling the story in such a way that the distance between the craziness of the party (and the people that showed up) from the Reva siblings lives was so blatant. I was not distracted by any of it, craving the parts that brought me closer to the climactic moment where the family finally gets to make choices for themselves and not borne out of their family history. It was compelling and Whelan leads you there, building anticipation for that moment that still surpassed my expectations.
There are so many layers to this story and I connected with it strongly. I’ve known people like Nina who were forced to step into adult roles and take care of their siblings when the parents vacated those responsibilities. Of all of them, I rooted for her the most as she’d always made life choices for the sake of her family, selflessly and often humiliating, but not only keeping them together but leading them to success. If you can rise above the metaphorically distracting party, you’ll understand the beauty of Malibu Rising and get the cleverness of that title. Taylor Jenkins Reid remains at the top of my list of auto listen authors.
- Release Date: June 1, 2021
- Narrator: Julia Whelan
- Audio Length: 11 hours, 5 minutes
- Publisher: Random House Audio
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(Thanks to the publisher and Libro.fm for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)