SUMMER by Lisa Grunwald


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A darting, very sad little book about a young woman's coming-to-terms with her family's mortality--more specifically, the mortality of family, how its seemingly eternal unit in fact changes and passes away. Jennifer Burke is one of the two daughters of Milo and Lulu. They're the closest of couples, these two; he's a well-off scupltor; she runs a Boston art gallery but serves more importantly as an artist's dream-wife: intuitive, smart, graceful, patient. If Milo and Lulu have to some degree shut their children out of their love affair with each other, they've also provided (at least to Jennifer) an almost Edenic romance of continued marital absorption. But this summer in question, spent as all others are on an island off Cape Cod, Lulu is in the last stages of bone cancer and she won't live out the summer. Milo, in grieving self-defense, spends more and more time in the studio; Jennifer's sister Hilary, an actress, makes intermittent appearances to help attend to Lulu's dying; and Jennifer, opportunely and not, a little embarrassedly, finds herself really in love for the first time, with a local boy who gives flying lessons at the small airport on the island where Milo keeps his plane. The plane--and the flying lessons--figure prominently at first: Jennifer has decided to sabotage the airplane, so that Milo and Lulu might die together at the end of the summer, thus to be unseparated. It's a plan that she finally abandons--seeing that both Milo and Lulu have found a way to say goodbye to each other already. . .and a good thing for the book, too: it's the most melodramatic element in a book otherwise fairly free of it. Grunwald lets her (sometimes too-good-to-be-true) characters drift too far out of focus at times, and the clippedness of many scenes is too bejeweled; yet sentimentality is kept to a minimum, and the hard narrative job of allowing complication its own rhythms through time--which is the book's chief idea--is deftly handled. A good debut.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 1985
Publisher: Knopf