Book 85 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from November 30 - December 2
Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos
Summary (via the book jacket)
In the sweltering heat of one summer in a small Midwestern town, Claire and Don Lowry discover that married life isn't quite what they'd predicted.
One night Don, a father of two, leaves his house for an evening stroll, only to wake up the next morning stoned and lying in a hammock next to a young woman he barely knows. Meanwhile, his wife, Claire, leaves the house to go on a midnight run - only to find herself bumming cigarettes and beer outside the all-night convenience store.
As the summer lingers and the temperature rises, this quotidian town's adults grow wilder and more reckless while their children grow increasingly confused. Claire, Don, and their neighbors and friends find themselves on an existential odyssey, exploring the most puzzling quandries of marriage and maturity. When does a fantasy become infidelity? When does compromise incite resentment? When does routine become boring monotony? Can Claire and Don survive everything that befalls them in this one summer, forgive their mistakes, and begin again?
Award-winning writer Dean Bakopoulos delivers a brutally honest and incredibly funny novel about the strange and tenuous ties that bind us, and the strange and unlikely places we find connection. Full of mirth, melancholy, and redemption, Summerlong explores what happens when life goes awry.
5 star read for me. It's definitely not for everyone but if it hits for you, it's going to hit hard. I don't read other reviews until I've posted my own but I know this only has a 3.5 average on Goodreads and I'll be curious to see why.
This was odd like a fever dream; hazy and thick but compelling.
I think I enjoyed it so much because I'm from Iowa and I KNOW these characters. I've BEEN these characters even as I was reading with my eyes half-covered because they kept messing everything up. Maybe it reveals too much about me that I related so much. It may have gone a little too far beyond what's workable in a marriage but the journey felt realistic. Most people don't set out to royally fuck things up, they just keep going one step further than yesterday until they're so far off their original path they don't know how to get back.
A lot of times in fiction, Iowans are portrayed as either a folksy, nice, pure rube or as an artsy intellectual desperate to flee to a coast where they can fit in. But that wasn't the case here. There wasn't a farmer in sight! I loved ABC's story of blossoming in Grinnell after leaving LA (unexpected, right?) and how it counteracted Claire's feelings of being stifled and missing NY. Plus there were shoutouts to my husband's tiny hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa and to Adventureland, the amusement park in the town where we live...I mean, c'mon, that's an extra star right there. :)
Charlie and ABC visiting Charlie's dad ripped my heart out.
The ending was crazy and it was shenanigans getting everyone to the lake but I'm not going to let the last 20 pages dampen my feelings for the book.
But let me mention it again...it's not for everyone. I'm uncomfortable giving recommendations and I don't put my heart in how other people review it. If you want to read it, fine. If you don't want to read it, fine. If you read it and hate it, fine...we can talk about it. If you read it and love it, fine...we can talk about that too.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"Every time she does anything purely selfish, she worries she'll come home to find one of the children sobbing or maimed...she's motivated by an unseen force many mothers believe in: guilt. Guilt as not only an internal emotion, but guilt so powerful that it is a force in the world, one that will, when given enough attention, rise up out of the ground and smother your children while you work late, or go for a massage, or spend a weekend in Chicago."
" "You're not in touch with them?"
"I try to be. But I did something they consider unforgivable."
"I won't ask what it was," Claire says. "But I'm sure it was forgivable."
"It doesn't matter," Ruth says. "Nobody forgives mothers."
"Fathers get forgiven. A million novels and movies about that - but mothers, mothers die and then the forgiveness comes. If they're lucky, there's a deathbed sort of confession. Maybe they weep over your ashes. That's not what I want." "
"Do we all have secrets and do we all leave evidence behind of such secrets when our end comes without notice? What would Charlie want burned if he were to become incapacitated someday? Maybe that is the sign of a good, ethical life? The idea that there is nothing you need to burn before you die."
"Mothers have secrets," Ruth says. "I mean, all women do. But mothers? Oh, they die full of secrets. There are certain things nobody wants mothers to say, to think, or to feel. There are restrictions, rules. And if those secrets get out? Unforgivable."