The Homeport had a big, noisy dining room, where food was served family style. It was popular with tourists and locals alike, more for its location overlooking the harbor, the best place to view spectacular Menemsha sunsets, than for its food...The menu was simple and never changed. Swordfish and lobsters were the two most popular dinners. They came with baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and cole slaw. For dessert it was pie and ice cream. The blueberries in the pie were canned, not fresh. If anyone asked, Vix was supposed to tell them the truth. But no one ever asked.

 — From Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

When the news began getting overwhelmed with stories of Covid-19, and the anxieties mounted (will we be working from home, will we be shut down, will we..., will we...) I lost my ability to read. I started and stopped novels and nonfiction; nothing stuck. Once we did begin working from home (including my professor partner, who now has to teach his undergrads and grads online from our apartment living room), once things did begin to shut down, the reading screeched to a halt.

A one-book-a-week person, I lost my ability to focus on anything other than the news, social media and the unknown. One of those unknowns was should we leave Cambridge, where cases were mounting, and head home to Martha’s Vineyard where I grew up year-round (and returned after college for two years to write for the Gazette).

The decision was agonizing as I contemplated the stark possibility that I might bring germs from the Boston area to the community I know and love best of all, that we could overtax the hospital and local grocery stores. I weighed that against the reality that I might not, safely, be able to see my parents for weeks or months.

I discussed the decision with friends, a group of four of us whose relationship dates back nearly 15 years, all connected through the Vineyard and now scattered across the East Coast, San Francisco, London. I also told them about my inability to read.

“I just started rereading Summer Sisters,” texted Meredith from California (who was a nanny for a Vineyard photographer when we met).

“I wonder if I can find my copy,” I chimed in, and began rooting around for my old dog-eared, sun-bleached hardcover version of the 1998 Judy Blume adult novel set on the Vineyard in the 1970s and 1980s. The first time I read it as an eighth grader, I sneaked out of the room my mom and I shared when we visited my grandparents, to stay up until dawn to finish.

I must have reread it at least 20 times since.

The four of us decided we would each read it then connect on FaceTime to discuss it in two weeks. When I started reading it, I also decided that I would stay in Boston, which I believe is the safest, most responsible action I can take at the moment. And I began, finally, to tear through the pages, letting it take me home — to the sandy beaches of Chappy, the salty waters of the Lagoon, the feeling of hitchhiking as a teenager (and eventually getting caught), of kissing under the stars, of Menemsha in summer.

The book is mindless and full of love, and it brings me back to the most knowns of knowns, my Island community, during this unknowing time.

Last weekend we came together from four corners of our universe, and for just an hour, felt at home again.

Julia Rappaport is an editor living in Cambridge. She was a Gazette reporter from 2007-2009 (and had the chance to interview Judy Blume).