The Summer of Us by Holly Chamberlin: Reviewed

One of the holiday reads I bought was Holly Chamberlin’s, The Summer of Us. I bought my own copy at my favorite bargain bookstore, Book Sale for only Php 80 (around $1.60). Honestly, I don’t have high expectations with the book. I conditioned myself on this idea because I assume that bargained books are those that don’t sell and appeal readers. However, after finishing the book, I could say that the book exceeded my low expectations. I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Summer of Us is the story of three girls, Gincy, Danielle and Clare, who have extremely different personalities but ended up to be the best of friends.

Gincy is the single, career woman who grew up from poverty. I could actually relate to this side of her. We were both raised in the not so financially endowed family. Gincy and I are the type of individuals who have to climb every step of the improvement ladder. The negative side of Gincy is her brutally frank personality. She says what she wants to say without inhibitions. This in effect caused her some troubles over the two girls. Another trouble with Gincy is her reluctance over commitment to Rick, who was almost perfect except for being a a single dad.

Life is almost perfect for Danielle. She has the ideal family and the financially rewarding job which could support the wants of a typical member of the female populace. Shopping, shoes, clothes, bags, cosmetics, and all those material endowments showered the life of Danielle. Danielle’s main dilemma is finding Mr. Right. Mr. Right for Danielle however is not the ordinary fisherman, Chris, whom she loves. He has to be Jewish, well-educated and conforms to the family’s standards.

Clare is said to be the group’s blueblood. She also came a family that could provide her more than what she wants in life. Among the three girls, Clare is the only one in a relationship. To be more specific, she is engaged with an equally upper class man, Win Carrington. Ironically, Clare’s problem emerges from his Mr. Perfect fiancé. Clare is losing part of herself from her long time relationship. She was given all those reasons and signs to quit the relationship. Clare however chose to become the Denial and Martyrdom Queen.

The three girls got connected through a one big summer vacation. The three of them are strangers to each other before that vineyard vacation. They met in a bar and the twist of fate made them decide to share one vacation house. Though honestly, if I were Clare, Gincy or Danielle, I would not let myself get hitched with total strangers.

The book was almost perfect except for the following weaknesses,

1. It was made too lengthy – Though the book was a quality read, I find it too lengthy. There were some immaterial events in the novel that  added useless pages.

2. A number of unbelievable events – This could explain why I find the novel too lengthy. I find some unnecessary events in the novel. One of which is Clare’s impulse sex escapade with a guy she just met at the concert. I find Clare’s image and upbringing not likely to have sex with a guy she knew for less than a day. In the end, Clare and that guy never saw each other again. This just convinces me that such part was immaterial for the plot.

Another unnecessary part is Gincy’s problem with Mommyzilla. Gincy’s reluctance to accept the responsibility of being a stepmom to Justin is already a sufficient point of interest in the novel. And to be honest enough, Rick is not the ideal guy for a divorced mommy with a daughter. Rick’s description in the novel is not someone girls would really die for.

Clare, being a runaway bride? I would have accepted if she ended up married then months after filed for a divorce, did not come on her wedding day and called up Gincy and Danielle, or have postponed or called off the wedding before it happened. I don’t know, but I find stories of runaway brides too fictional and movie like.

On the positive side however, these are some points I appreciate on the novel.

1. Society’s definitions on successful women – The novel was able to bring out one of the painful expectations among women. The society has unfortunately defined successful women as employed, married, a wife and a mother. Why a typical, single career woman can’t be considered as a successful person as well?

2. Light and Humorous – I love reading but I don’t engaged much on those deep, analytical and serious stuff. Reading is one my favorite past time activities. Hence, when I read I look for those light, humorous but heartwarming and enlightening stories. The novel fortunately adhered to my standards. The plot maybe shallow for some but its unsaid and sad facts about being a woman is what I really appreciated. The novel was able to balance the elements of humor and learning.

3. Unrealized thoughts – Though the plot of the novel was too shallow, Chamberlin was able to unearth some realizations about being a woman, relationships and even family ties. I initially thought that having close family relationships is only prevalent among Asian communities. Clare and Danielle’s family however gave me a picture that in the Western world, family relationships are still valued.

The book may not be perfect read. However, I am still recommending it to all members of the female populace. The novel will give you some points of humor but provide you silent realizations about being a woman.