Painfully self-conscious, often pretentious meditations on first love.
Debut author Benson’s family had a summer cabin on the shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a place of magical delight where every moment and sensation was treasured. The other nine months of Benson’s girlhood years were spent in Detroit, where time was suspended until life picked up again in the summer. The author regarded their summer place as home; they had family connections to it, and it has continued, she writes, to “dictate . . . what was both beautiful and true.” Benson fished, swam, and picked berries there. For many years the nameless boy with the sparkling eyes was one of the many local guys who were always around. But one summer when she was in her teens, he gave Benson a letter declaring his interest in her. She was cautious about responding, and after she did, their relationship over several long summers was loving but chaste. It effectively ended when Benson went off to college. Shortly afterward, she heard that he had married and was still living where he grew up. Now in her early 30s, Benson describes how she began regularly dreaming of the sparkling-eyed boy; in these dreams he berated her for failing to keep in touch, and she scolded him for marrying. She recalls meeting the man and his wife in later years, her parents’ divorce, her eating disorders, and her conflicted feelings about the boy and love. The carefully wrought prose evokes with conscious lyricism such perennials of the picturesque as sunsets and water views, but it turns curiously lifeless and emotionally tepid when examining the boy and her love for him. Benson works hard, but not convincingly, to explain her attraction both to permanence and to the temporality that probably shaped her feelings.
Ambitious, but the self-absorption wears thin.