A complimentary advanced reader copy of this book was provided by Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!) My review was in no way influenced by this consideration.
If you’ve ever looked at my Goodreads list, you’ll know just how much I love Southern fiction, and novels that are located in and around Sullivan’s Island, in particular. I’ve read nearly everything Dorothea Benton Frank‘s ever written, for instance, and there’s nothing quite like a good, lazy, beachy summer read.
Whether or not The Summer Wind is a good, lazy, beachy summer read is, I guess, a subjective question. For me, it didn’t quite hit the mark.
The Summer Wind purports to be the story of Dora, a woman in the middle of a divorce, who flees with her autistic son to her grandmother’s summer beach home for refuge, and to be with her sisters. The reality is a little more muddled. I felt like the story took quite a while to find its direction–for a long time, we follow each of the sisters in turn, but the narration isn’t balanced out well enough to be a story about all three of them, really. While the plot lines are interesting, they don’t quite tell a rounded story, and the narrative thread got a little lost, at times.
My main complaint, though, was that there’s just so much in the book that seems tangential or unimportant. The entire dolphin plotline could have been an interesting way to add interest, but at times, it felt like a preachy distraction. Harper’s constant note-taking was never developed. Carson’s relationship with Taylor was dumped off mid-stream without any real explanation or lessons learned. He almost seemed to just serve as a vehicle to add a detail about the Wounded Warriors Project. A good deal of the book was like that.
As for the writing style, I spent a lot of my reading time trying not to be frustrated by all the lectures these women give one another. Now, I come from a family of communicators, and we talk about everything. We know one another intimately, and on occasion, we point out something we’ve observed about each other’s natures. Thesewomen do nothing but point things out. Nevermind that they haven’t spent any real time together for a number of years, and that the premise of the book is that their grandmother’s worried about their distant relationships: these women seem to know one another intimately in no time, and can’t seem to stop themselves from grandstanding and pontificating and arguing over their life philosophies every time they’re together. A large chunk of the book is made up of heated sister-lectures on dating, parenting, sex, dolphins, gardening, the environment–if you can have an opinion on it, they’ll beat you to death with it. The style just lacked some subtlety, for me.
There were a few other things that bothered me, but I’ll try not to be overly nit-picky (we won’t even discuss the shackles analogy). Let’s just say that I was really looking forward to what I thought would be a breezy summer read and found it wasn’t for me. Not for nothing, Monroe is a best-selling author, so maybe you’ll want to check her out!
Mentions of gettin’ it on, but no details. Clean, language-wise. 2 stars.
First Line: “July was said to be the hottest month of the year in Charleston, and after enduring eighty southern summers, Marietta Muir, or Mamaw, as her family affectionately called her, readily agreed.”