[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, www.megdonohue.com.]
By Olga Godim
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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
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. Philadelphia
, 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? New York
, 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. San Francisco
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.
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.
About the Reviewer - Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from
. Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers, but her passion is fiction. Her short stories have been published in several internet magazines, including Lorelei Signal, Sorcerous Signals, Aoife’s Kiss, Silver 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 , Vancouver Canada , has just been released from Eternal Press. Russia