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‘Save What’s Left’ by Elizabeth Castellano. (Credit: Julia Vasile-Cozzo)

The myth that a beach town is a pure paradise and never anything less is debunked by Elizabeth Castellano in her debut novel, “Save What’s Left.”

The story is set in a small beach town on Long Island, specifically New Suffolk, where Castellano grew up. 

On Tuesday, July 11, Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library will hold a book event at 6:30 p.m. to help introduce “Save What’s Left” to the town that inspired it. 

After graduating from the Little Red Schoolhouse in New Suffolk with six classmates, Castellano attended Southold High School, where she focused on the arts and was involved in clubs. 

“My first show was ‘Les Mis’ on Broadway when I was 5 years old,” she said. “I’ve always been into storytelling of any kind. Books and theater, it’s all kinda the same thread. 

“When I went to college, I realized that not everybody knows how to stretch a canvas or read music,” she said. At Bates College in Maine, Castellano majored in theater and graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. 

Her novel relies heavily on dialogue, and she believes her theater background greatly helped her write natural-sounding conversations. “When you are writing a play, it has to sound natural; it can’t sound so rigid,” she said. 

After college, Castellano moved to New York City, where she did odd jobs and wrote on the side. During this time, she dabbled in writing middle-grade and children’s books, but eventually decided to return to her roots and write for adults. 

Elizabeth Castellano based “Save What’s Left” on her own North Fork experiences.(Credit: Julia Vasile-Cozzo)

“Save What’s Left” was created during the pandemic, while Castellano sat by the window at her beach house, staring at the waves and surrounded by her inspiration. The book took six months to write and another six months to edit when her publisher gave it back to her with “fundamental changes.” 

The main character, Kathleen Deane, is originally from Kansas. Inspiration for Kathleen Deane came from threats the author made to her family to move to Kansas City and give up on writing to “get a job at Hallmark and do B-list holiday cards nobody would want,” she said. 

“If I just gave up on writing and did this, where would I be,” said Castellano referring to where Kathleen Deane is in the novel: starting a new life, fresh out of retirement, wanting to move to the beach and enjoy a glass of wine on the porch.

The book’s title echoes a slogan used by a longtime local nonprofit, the North Fork Environmental Council. But for Castellano, the phrase is about more than just environmental preservation; it’s about saving what’s left of the character in these small towns. “There’s a reason why people come to these places, and a lot of it is a natural beauty,” she said. For protagonist Kathleen Deane, it’s also about saving what’s left of her marriage and herself.

“It really was written, and I hope this comes through, with a deep affection for this place and the people that live here,” said Castellano. 

“Save What’s Left”is a comedic summer read, relatable to those who live in small towns and understand the mundane drama of a local board meeting and a Sunday pickleball game. “I hope people think it’s funny and an escape,” she said, “just take it to the beach and get a laugh; that’s really why I write, to entertain.” 

Castellano’s second book is already in the works. “It’s not a beach book yet,” she said, “but it might swing into one.”