Relinquishing a beloved family home forever can be deeply heart-wrenching. For author Madeline Blais, this reckoning came with the 2014 sale of her in-laws’ summer retreat on the shore of Tisbury Great Pond.

“The value of what we could not take was astronomical,” writes Ms. Blais in To the New Owners: A Martha’s Vineyard Memoir. “How do you pack a view?”

Yet there’s surprisingly little lamenting in this new book by the Pulitzer-winning journalist (In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle) and accomplished memoirist. Facing her grief over losing the house, in the midst of world problems much larger and harder, she asks herself: “So why was I, though not an actual owner, upset at losing what had never been mine? And where was my perspective?”

In her book, Ms. Blais answers these questions by recounting easy summer days and nights at the simple, unheated house, called Thumb Point for its location along the pond’s shore.

It was only a shack when former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and his wife Lydia purchased it for $80,000 in the early 1970s, and it was still a shack when their son John brought Ms. Blais there on her first of many stays.

“It was then that I got an inkling of how some people delight in deprivation, even court it,” she recalls of her first shocked look at the place: ceilings covered with green garbage bags, windows crisscrossed with masking-tape Xs “giving the mistaken impression that at some point there had been a quarantine.”

Even when the Katzenbachs rebuilt it, the house remained free of heating, air conditioning, cable, television and the internet. But it did have one amenity that other summer-house owners may wish to add: Log books — bespoke, clothbound, with 200 rag-paper pages apiece — for residents and guests to note their daily experiences at Thumb Point.

More than just guest registers, the eight log books provide a collective diary of summer life in all its barefoot, sandy, sunburned glory. Ms. Blais quotes generously from their pages, which include celebrity spottings, shopping lists, wasp warnings and “pure silliness,” such as a list of alternative openings to Moby-Dick (“From now on, call me Ish.”)

“Who needs TV, toasters, videos and microwaves when you have the ocean, lots of books, the dirt road, flying horses, restaurants, the bike path, big waves, and the ferry?” reads one child’s entry.

On another page, an empty-handed angler refuses to be disappointed, writing: “I can think of no other place I’d rather go out and not catch fish.”

Ms. Blais quickly got over her initial dismay at the shack and fell into the easygoing rhythm of Thumb Point. The busy couple’s annual two-week sojourns on the Vineyard became her still point in a churning world: “a dependable retreat, an annual tune-up, a lover’s embrace . . . . On the island, I felt like a different, lighter person: more open, less burdened.”

Not all of To the New Owners takes place at Thumb Point. The Katzenbachs and their extended families roamed from end to end of the Island, and Ms. Blais brings colorful detail to her accounts of both their outdoor adventures and their tours through the Granary Gallery, Alley’s General Store and other local establishments.

She also includes a list of “attributes for the ideal guest,” including “Never leave garbage for someone else to take to the dump” and “Obey the rules of the dirt road.”

Published by Atlantic Monthly Press, To the New Owners transforms the act of leave-taking into a practical exercise in gratitude, while providing a Martha’s Vineyard travelogue that will entertain longtime Islanders and armchair visitors alike.