Elin Hilderbrand is my personal mentor right now through her book The Castaways. I am working on the second draft of my novel, which is about a group of couple friends (plus one little brother), and Hilderbrand's novel is the perfect teacher. This book, like mine, is about a group of too-close couple friends; hers are all reeling from the boating accident that killed the group's golden couple, the unspoken homecoming queen and king.
(Side note: I love the brilliance of this title as well. The group of friends call themselves "the castaways," the drowned couple were playing "castaways" on the day of their accident by escaping the mainland, and each person feels like a castaway in their own marriage).
Hilderbrand dives right in, dropping the bomb about their deaths in the beginning, then switching the omniscient narrator's focus to one of the other six adults to reveal all the strands of the sticky web that these people are all woven in to.
Besides a brilliant structure, I really enjoyed and learned from Hilderbrand's character reveals. Each narrator reveals plenty about themselves when they are the focal point, but they also reveal so much about the other characters. In some ways, I learn more about the other characters than the one being highlighted. She shows the discrepancies between how we view ourselves and how others view us. Heck, we really get six different perspectives about each character--themselves and the five other people who are intimately close with them.
This method really helps round out each character and give a complete picture of their insecurities, flaws, strengths, weaknesses, and of course, secrets. The connections between this group of couple friends (and really any group of couple friends for that matter) are not as they appear. Each couple isn't the perfect husband and wife, the women aren't all best friends, and the guys aren't all buddies. The invisible ties each individually has to the other seven people are heartbreaking and real. To me, no one is the villain or heroine/hero, protagonist/antagonist or any other typical role. These are just eight people trying to live their lives the best they can, but emotions trump rationality and morals.
Besides of study of couple friendships and friendship in general, readers get a glimpse into four different marriages with their own unique set of issues and struggles. I feel like I am peering through my neighbor's windows, and it makes me want to keep looking.