Simmons (Wrinkles, 1978; The Belles Lettres Papers, 1987) reappears with a small, coherent, impeccably composed little tragicomedy whose only debility is that the ground it stakes out is well-worn. It's the summer of 1963, and 16-year-old Michael is spending it, as usual, with his parents in their splendid old summer house on narrow Bone Point somewhere along the Atlantic coast—Connecticut, perhaps, though it isn—t said. The summer might have been indistinguishable from any other if the family guest house hadn—t been rented to the suavely cosmopolitan Mrs. Mertz (from a strain of far-back Russian nobility) and her 20-year-old daughter, the beautiful, enticing, and lively Zina—with whom Michael at once falls in love. A simple enough happenstance, and all might have moved forward through a youthful summer of ephemeral (however heartbreaking) romance if Michael hadn—t accidentally begun finding out some things about his good-looking father (and unhappy mother) that he hadn—t quite caught onto before. His father's overnight business trips back into town have had—for a long time—more than just business as their purpose, and the unhappiness Michael sees in his jealousy-tormented mother begins suddenly making a sense to him it never did before. Complications ensue of a kind that mustn—t be told—this is a little book that needs certain of its secrets intact, though Simmons's opening sentence (—In the summer of 1963 I fell in love and my father drowned—) needn—t be one of them. How that drowning occurred—and why and when, and what Michael's part in it was, or Zina's—won—t be said here, but what must be remarked on is Simmons's way, from start of summer to end, of carrying the reader along with a limpid clarity and gracefully articulated telling that are pleasures of their own. A little saga of adolescence that, even if not new, is a perfectly-cut gem of its kind.
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