Written by Jamie Brenner
The last time I visited my sister, she gave me a stack of books. No, really. A stack. I slid a few in my suitcase, a few in my Harrods tote, and had to come back for the rest. I feel bad because I keep reading stuff she wouldn’t like (Nonfiction, Crime, Adventure) or I check things out from the library. So I haven’t had anything to give her recently.
The Forever Summer is one that makes me feel guilty about not getting to pay her back.
What It’s About
Two women find out that they’re sisters through one of those mail-in DNA kits. For different reasons, they decide to pay a visit to Provincetown, RI to visit the grandmother they never knew. Over the course of their visit, they come to understand what it means to be a family and what it means to be themselves.
I saw Provincetown one time on television, I think. Maybe an episode of Tabitha’s Salon Takeover? What? Don’t judge. Anyway, it seemed interesting and quirky, but everywhere seems interesting and quirky on reality TV. In a book, though, a location can sometimes become so ordinary or so make-believe that it almost doesn’t exist except as a vehicle for the action. This time, Brenner makes the location matter, and she makes it jump off the page. She must have spent time there, and she must love it because she made me love it.
The characters were interesting for the most part (we’ll get to “the most part” later). They weren’t perfect, but they were doing their best. And when they screwed up, you alternately screamed “NO!” in your head while completely understanding what made them do whatever they were doing.
The pacing was also good, consistent. Brenner didn’t rush through one event to get to another. She spun it out like it was happening in real life, and by doing so, allowed me be in that moment with the character, wondering what was coming next but knowing I couldn’t rush it.
Brenner had a tough time with her male romantic interests. For the most part, they were one-dimensional and self-absorbed. While I could get into everyone else’s heads pretty well, the guys all seemed to be viewed at a distance. Maybe Brenner wanted us to see the world through the eyes of the female leads, but it had the effect of just making it seem like she didn’t understand men. And frankly, at no point did I want any of those women to end up with any of those men.
The biggest not-so-good is going to sound insane. I know this, but I’m going with it. Brenner cannot seem to describe a character without telling us that the person looks like an actor. The first time she did it, it jarred me a bit. It didn’t seem to fit the narrative style of the piece, which reads more literary beach read than fluffy beach read. I think I counted four, maybe five times that she did it. Who knows, maybe Provincetown is the place where movie star clones live?
I really enjoyed this book. It’s perfect for the beach or a plane or your back patio with a glass of wine (my personal preference). The narrative arc works, the voice is consistent, and there are enough surprises to keep you turning the pages. Now I need to see what’s next in my stack of hand-me-down books…