Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review - All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue (2/5)

[The following review is part of the All the Summer Girls blog tour managed by TLC Book Tours.  The book reviewed was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  For a full list of host blogs for the tour, see the tour page.  For more on Meg Donohue and her work, visit her website,]

By Olga Godim

Click here for the Amazon listing
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t enamored of this book. Its plot is simple.

Three twenty-nine-year-old women, best friends since kindergarten, are at the crossroads in their lives.  In Philadelphia, Kate discovers that she is pregnant. Her revelation occurs on the same day her boyfriend dumps her. Despite her successful career as a lawyer, she wallows in gloom and loneliness; understandably so. She doesn’t know how to go on with her life.  

In New York, Vanessa is a stay-at-home mom of her two-year-old daughter, but her husband committed indiscretion – kissed another woman. Nothing worse happened, and he apologized, but Vanessa can’t forgive him. She wallows in gloom and loneliness. She doesn’t know how to go on with her life. Should she divorce him? Should she go back to work?

In San Francisco, Dani is a drunk and a druggy. She just lost her latest job – 12th in seven years. She wallows in gloom and loneliness, with no money, no home, and no one to care for her. She doesn’t know how to go on with her life.

All three decide to meet for the Fourth of July weekend in their favorite summer spot, Avalon, NJ, where they were happy as children. Perhaps the familiar and beloved beach town will rejuvenate their lives and rekindle their friendships?

Throughout the length of the novel, the friends talk a lot, dig into their souls to dredge out old lies, and contemplate their past mistakes. And that’s all. Nothing else happens across 260 pages, although the author provides her readers with plenty of small, inconsequential details. Atmosphere – yes: brooding and hazy, palpable like the summer heat. Action – no. I don’t consider driving a car or drinking beer an action.

There is one more prominent character in this tale – Kate’s twin brother Colin. Colin has been dead for eight years. He died from a drug overdose the last summer they spent together in Avalon, and all three friends have been carrying guilt over his death ever since. Instead of the three living women, the dead Colin seems to be the protagonist of the story. Everything revolves around him. He is the only one in the novel allotted any action by the author, the only colorful personage in the entire book. He did stupid things, repeatedly and unrepentantly, until he died. Even after his death, he is affecting everyone who had ever loved him.

Meg Donohue
Kate, Vanessa and Dani are perpetually rehashing his death in their recurring mournful recollections. Their three lives seem on pause, trapped by Colin-related secrets and regrets. Because of their story-wise immobility, the friends, though alive, seem unreal and shadowy in contrast with Colin, dead but ubiquitous. Frankly, the Mobius strip of the women’s mental process, repeatedly punctuating the same groove of Colin’s tragic demise, made the story dead-ended and frustrating, just like Colin himself had been.

How long can one dwell on a death that happened many years ago, I wonder? In my experience, people tend to forget, even if they feel guilty. Especially if they feel guilty. Most people I know re-write history in their heads to absolve themselves of any past wrongdoings. Psychologically, we’re not wired to carry guilt for long. In this respect, the novel feels ultimately untrue.

Another facet of this book that had me gnashing my teeth was grammatical: the constant juggling of tenses. The story is told in the present tense, which I dislike but wouldn’t hold against the author. Unfortunately, every page or so, all the POV characters – Kate, Vanessa, and Dani – slide into retrospection, and the narrative switches to the past tense.

The tense-fluctuating technique becomes confusing fast. Eventually, the entire book feels like a memory clip. Anything of interest happened exclusively in the past. In the present, there is only a frame, a skeleton of a story, and not a very alluring one at that.     

Two stars.

About the Reviewer Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from VancouverCanada.  Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers, but her passion is fiction.  Her short stories have been published in several internet magazines, including Lorelei SignalSorcerous SignalsAoife’s KissSilver Blade, and other publications.  In her free time, she writes novels, collects toy monkeys, and posts book reviews on GoodReads.  Her first novel, Lost and Found in Russia, has just been released from Eternal Press.


  1. Darn, I'm sorry that this one didn't quite work for you but we appreciate your honest review for the tour.

  2. I have to say I am relieved that I was not the only one making the unimpressed face after reading this.