REVIEW: “That Summer”

This summer is going to be the best one ever.

You’ve got dozens of things planned: time with friends and family, a weekend getaway or two, cookouts, parades, a neighborhood party, your schedule is packed already. Yep, this will be a summer you’ll never forget; as in the new novel, “That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner, that alone could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Daisy Shoemaker knew she shouldn’t snoop but she couldn’t help it: when she started getting emails that were meant for a woman with a slightly different (but very similar) address, she couldn’t help but peek. 

The woman named Diana led such an exciting life, trips, meetings, fun.

All Daisy did, it seemed, was to live a rather staid life with her husband, Hal, and their fourteen-year-old, Beatrice. Yes, she taught cooking classes when anyone would hire her but Hal liked to remind her how he expected her to make their house a home, so that was her priority: cooking, cleaning, she did Hal’s errands, planned their annual family Cape Cod trip, tried to enjoy her priviledge, and felt weird because everyone in his social circle was a professor, politician, or banker and she hadn’t even finished college.

So on the evening when she replied wrong email and got a Sorry! from Diana, Daisy was intrigued by the ensuing, light-hearted e-versation. It was nice to make a new friend…

Diana Starling had been just fifteen that one summer.

Her father had been against her taking the job as an au pair on the Cape, but Diana begged to go until her parents relented. Her sisters promised sun and boys, and wasn’t that romantic? Diana would go to Cape Cod for a job but she’d surely come home with a boyfriend; after all, an older boy called Poe invited her to his end-of-summer bonfire, which was a good sign.

She’d tried to avoid alcohol, but that was impossible. 

She tried to stay out of trouble.

She tried, but she’d never forget the bonfire or the sand dunes or three boys…

You’re scoffing, aren’t you? Scoffing, because you think you know where this novel is going, right now, right from the start. And you’re quite a bit wrong.

With shades of #MeToo and other events from the recent past, author Jennifer Weiner tells a story that twists and twinkles like wind chimes on the back deck, with two heroines that nicely complement one another and a teenage character who’s made to love. Everything that happens is told mostly through their points-of-view, and time has its own frame in this tale: readers may be taken back decades, or things might move in a unique montage-like way that holds your interest while quickly filling in those tiny details that make a novel like this such a joy to read. 

Indeed, “This Summer” is just right for your next long weekend, your book club’s pick, or that vacation you’ve been planning. Look for it, and let it become a part of the best summer ever.

“That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner

c.2021, Atria $28.00 / $37.00 Canada 432 pages

Jennifer Weiner