THE SUMMER GUEST by Justin Cronin


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Cronin’s graceful second (after Mary and O’Neil, 2001) is well executed but uncompelling as it tells of the hold a lakeside Maine camp has on three generations of a family.

The characters are as good as their intentions, and the evils that intrude are the impersonal plagues of war and disease. Everyone is forgiving, loving, and sensitive, even Harry Wainwright, a paragon of corporate responsibility, whose living and dying ties the people and the story together. Things begin as Joe Crosby, badly wounded in WWII, buys a camp in Maine in 1947 and moves there with wife Amy and baby Joe. Nearly five decades later, it’s summer, and Joe junior’s wife Lucy and their daughter Kate, a medical student, as well as guide Jordan, are awaiting the arrival of the dying Harry. Harry has cancer but is determined to go fishing at a place that has long been a treasured refuge. Jordan, Joe, Lucy, Kate, and Harry record this last visit while also revisiting their respective pasts. Joe and Lucy have just sold the camp to Harry, who has a surprising but perfect new owner in mind. Harry has played an even more significant role in the Crosbys’ lives. During Vietnam, Joe fled to Canada, and Lucy, his high-school sweetheart, helped the ailing Joe Senior run the camp. One year, a grieving Harry, whose wife has just died, arrived to spend the summer and found comfort in helping Joe and Lucy. Lucy, who’d dreamed of marrying young Joe, found herself drawn to the much older Harry, as he was to her: an attraction that had consequences when Joe returned to marry her. But the secrets and attractions have no corrosive power, and Harry is more a benevolent godfather with time on his hands than he was as a busy tycoon. Even as he lies dying, he continues to give generously and behave thoughtfully.

Pleasant people in a pleasant setting, but without the credibility and edge to engage.

Pub Date: July 6th, 2004
ISBN: 0-385-33581-4
Page count: 372pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2004


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