Summer Gone: Amazing Reads from Past Years

While looking ahead to summer is a delightful experience, there is something in the nature of summer itself that invites nostalgia, and not just for the season, but also for the books that help to make the season so memorable. And so before we start talking summer reads and 2019 new releases, we wanted to take a moment and recall the summer books that we've loved from years gone by, books that are definitely worth picking up if you haven't read them yet and which will always be good for a reread. 

*****

The Last Woman, by John Bemrose

About the book: In the heart of cottage country in Ontario, bordering on a native reservation, Ann and Richard are confronted with the abrupt reappearance after ten years of a local man, Billy. His presence once again in their lives brings back powerful memories and rekindles old conflicts, love, and a betrayal, as each of their past and present stories gradually unfolds during one 1980s summer.

Containing all of the elements for which The Island Walkers was celebrated, The Last Woman envelops us in Bemrose’s flawlessly crafted and complete world, where each character is unforgettably alive and real, and the land itself breathes its own story into our hearts.

*

Sodom Road Exit, by Amber Dawn

About the book: It's the summer of 1990, and Crystal Beach in Ontario has lost its beloved, long-running amusement park, leaving the lakeside village a virtual ghost town. It is back to this fallen community Starla Mia Martin must return to live with her overbearing mother after dropping out of university and racking up significant debt. But an economic downturn, mother-daughter drama, and Generation X disillusionment soon prove to be the least of Starla's troubles: a mysterious and salacious force begins to dog Starla; inexplicable sounds in the night and unimaginable sights spotted on the periphery. Soon enough, Starla must confront the unresolved traumas that haunt Crystal Beach.

Sodom Road Exit might read like a conventional paranormal thriller, except that Starla is far from a conventional protagonist. Where others might feel fear, Starla feels lust and queer desire. When others might run, Starla draws the horror nearer. And in turn, she draws a host of capricious characters toward her--all of them challenged to seek answers beyond their own temporal realities.

Sodom Road Exit, the second novel by Amber Dawn, is a book that's alive with both desire and dread.

*

The Dancehall Years, by Joan Haggerty

About the book: Both an epic adventure and an interracial drama, this spellbinding novel brims with gorgeous writing. The complex family saga begins one summer on Bowen Island and in Vancouver during the Depression and moves through Pearl Harbour, the evacuation of the Japanese and three generations into the 1980s. Gwen Killam is a child whose idyllic island summers are obliterated by the war and consequent dramatically changed behavior of the adults around her. Her swimming teacher, Takumi, disappears along with his parents. The Lower Mainland is in blackout, and Gwen’s beloved Aunt Isabelle painfully realizes she must make an unthinkable sacrifice.

The island’s dance hall, a well-known destination for both soldiers on leave and summer picnickers, becomes the emotional landmark for time passing and time remembered

*

The Ladies Lending Library, by Janice Kulyk Keefer

About the book: In the summer of 1963, the year of the release of Cleopatra, the most sensational movie ever made, the women of Kalyna Beach prepare for their annual end-of season party. Sonia Martyn and her four daughters are part of a group of first generation Ukrainian Canadians, newly minted middle-class families claiming their small part of the cottage-country dream. With their husbands away in the city all week, the women’s days are ruled by the predictable rhythms of children and chores, lightened by the “racy” books they trade amongst themselves and by their Friday afternoon gatherings for gin and gossip, heightened by their obsession with the deliciously scandalous love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Their tightly bound world is straining with its own dramas and secrets. Sonia, a former fashion model, mourns the death of her mother and fights with her difficult eldest daughter. Elusive Nadia, the wife of a millionaire, longs for a life she cannot have. Sharp-tongued, sophisticated Sasha plays a dangerous game in both challenging and shoring-up the traditional Ukrainian community and its defining values. And for adolescent Laura, her sisters and their friends, the rifts and fissures that appear in the once impregnable “world of the mothers” will unleash a startling series of betrayals and discoveries. For this is the summer when everything will change for the girls and women of Kalyna Beach, as innocence is exchanged for a new understanding of the possibilities open to them all.

In setting her characters against the backdrop of the turbulent sixties, Janice Kulyk Keefer creates a radiant portrait of women caught between countries, cultures and aspirations. Richly evocative, beautifully told, The Ladies’ Lending Library will resonate with more than women and book club members; it’s a story for anyone who has longed for the sweet and heady days of bygone summers and the risky promises of change.

*

Turning, by Jessica J. Lee

About the book: Jessica J. Lee swims through all four seasons and especially loves the winter. "I long for the ice. The sharp cut of freezing water on my feet. The immeasurable black of the lake at its coldest. Swimming then means cold, and pain, and elation."

At the age of twenty-eight, Jessica, who grew up in Canada and lived in England, finds herself in Berlin. Alone. Lonely, with lowered spirits thanks to some family history and a broken heart, she is there, ostensibly, to write a thesis. And though that is what she does daily, what increasingly occupies her is swimming. So she makes a decision that she believes will win her back her confidence and independence: she will swim fifty-two of the lakes around Berlin, no matter what the weather or season. She is aware that this particular landscape is not without its own ghosts and history.

This is the story of a beautiful obsession: of the thrill of a still, turquoise lake, of cracking the ice before submerging, of floating under blue skies, of tangled weeds and murkiness, of cool, fresh, spring swimming—of facing past fears of near-drowning and of breaking free. 

When she completes her year of swimming, Jessica finds she has new strength, and she has also found friends and has gained some understanding of how the landscape both haunts and holds us.

This book is for everyone who loves swimming, who wishes they could push themselves beyond caution, who understands the deep pleasure of using the body's strength, who knows what it is to abandon all thought and float home to the surface.

*

Summer Gone, by David Macfarlane

About the book: The admired, bestselling author of The Danger Tree joins Knopf Canada with his masterful first work of fiction: a haunting novel about love experienced and love remembered that is also an unforgettable celebration and evocation of the brief beauty of a northern summer.

Summer Gone is about that moment when everything stops. Like skilled canoeists, we briefly hold a perfect balance—poised between innocence and experience, life and death, discovery and loss, the promise of spring and the sadness of autumn—and we believe, foolishly, that those perfect days will last forever.

Set among the islands and lakes of "cottage country", this major first novel from one of Canada's premier writers explores the stories of three generations of lost summers. But Summer Gone is primarily the story of a divorced father and a young son separated by the silence of estrangement, and how during one extraordinary night on an ill-fated canoe trip the silence is broken. Yet, as the novel unfolds, tragedy looms over father and son in ways they could never have imagined, and leads to the book's gripping and startling conclusion.

Summer Gone is an exquisite novel, beautifully written and powerfully told.

*

Boundary, by Andree Michaud

About the book: In the deep woods of the Maine borderlands, the legend of huntsman Pete Landry is still told around cottage campfires to scare children, a tragic story of love, lust, and madness. During the early summer of 1967, inseparable teenage beauties Sissy Morgan and Zaza Mulligan wander among the vacation cottages in the community of Boundary, drinking and smoking and swearing, attracting the attention of boys and men. First one, and then the other, goes missing, and both are eventually found dead in the forest. Have they been the victims of freak accidents? Or is someone hunting the young women of Boundary? And if there is a hunter, who might be next? The Summer of Love quickly becomes the Summer of Fear, and detective Stan Michaud, already haunted by a case he could not solve, is determined to find out what exactly is happening in Boundary before someone else is found dead.

A story of deep psychological power and unbearable suspense, Andrée A. Michaud’s award-winning Boundary is an utterly gripping read about a community divided by suspicion and driven together by primal terror.

*

How Deep is the Lake, by Shelley O'Callaghan

About the book: A prudent and intentional examination of privilege and belonging in Chilliwack Lake by retired environmental lawyer and grandmother. Curious about the previous inhabitants of the lake where her family has spent the summer for over one hundred years, author Shelley O'Callaghan starts researching and writing about the area. But what begins as a personal journey of one woman's relationship to the land and her desire to uncover the history of her family's remote cabin turns into an exploration and questioning of our rights as settlers upon a land that was inhabited long before we came.

In her research, O'Callaghan uncovers a history that runs as deep as the three hundred metre lake itself. Eager to pass on her discoveries, she shares her journey with her six grandchildren. Together they learn of her grandfather's intriguing connection with the First Nation's chief, whose ancestry goes back to the earliest recorded history at the lake, and her grandmother's attendance at a school where First Nations girls were taught servitude instead of knowledge. They find the headstone of an American scout with the 1858 International Boundary Commission Survey, a 1916 silver mine set up by Chief Sepass and the remnants of the original Indian Trail. They learn about trapper and prospector Charlie Lindeman, who introduced her grandfather to the lake in the early 1920s and rescued her mother and grandmother from a fire that engulfed the lake in the 1930s.

After a summer of discoveries, O'Callaghan and her grandchildren consider the impact of the legacy of white settlement in the area-what is received from the past and what is given to the future. As they reflect on the essence of a "summer cabin," a place that brings family together and that nourishes the soul with its solitude and beauty, they gain a new perspective on the inevitable repercussions of privilege and the nature of change.

*

Arguments With the Lake, by Tanis Rideout

About the book: In 1954, at the age of sixteen, Marilyn Bell became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. It brought her fame and adulation; her life seemed charmed. Enter Shirley Campbell, another young swimmer whose accomplishments were poised to rival Bell's, but in falling short in her own attempts to cross the Great Lake, she found herself spiraling out of control into a life of addiction, petty crime, and personal tragedies. Tanis Rideout weaves the tales of these two remarkable women together in a series of stunning, lyrical poems. It is a story of courage and triumph, but also one of adversity and redemption. This is an exhilarating book of poetry, at once tender and terrifying; like a cold dip in Lake Ontario, it will engulf you and leave you breathless. Arguments with the Lake confirms Rideout's arrival as a major new talent in Canadian letters.

*

When Fenelon Falls, by Dorothy Ellen Palmer

About the book: A spaceship hurtles towards the moon, hippies gather at Woodstock, Charles Manson leads a cult into murder and a Kennedy drives off a Chappaquiddick dock: it’s the summer of 1969. And as mankind takes its giant leap, Jordan May March, disabled bastard and genius, age fourteen, limps and schemes her way towards adulthood. Trapped at the March family’s cottage, she spends her days memorizing Top 40 lists, avoiding her adoptive cousins, catching frogs and plottingto save Yogi, the bullied, buttertart-eating bear caged at the top of March Road. In her diary, reworking the scant facts of her adoption, Jordan visions and revisions a hundred different scenarios for her conception on that night in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel tore Toronto to shreds, imagining her conception at the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital or the CNE horse palace, and such parents as JFK, Louisa May Alcott, Perry Mason and the Queen of England.

But when bear-baiting cousin Derwood finds the diary and learns everything that the family will not face, the target of his torture shifts from Yogi the Bear to his disabled and haunted adopted cousin. As caged as Yogi, Jordan is drawn to desperate measures.

With its soundtrack of 'sixties pop songs, swamp creatures, motor boats and the rapid-fire punning of the family’s Marchspeak, When Fenelon Falls will take you to a time and place that was never as idyllic as it seemed, where not belonging turns the Summer of Love into a summer of loss.

*

All the Voices Cry, by Alice Petersen

About the book: "There is something Mansfieldian about these stories, though Petersen's are more sparely peopled O Where the stories in All the Voices Cry are going is secondary to the grasping, the almost- reaching, for a change in destiny O is an honest portraitist, and a kind puppeteer." - Montreal Review of Books

*

Mating For Life, by Marissa Stapley

About the book: Maine meets Girls in White Dresses in this Globe and Mail bestseller about three very different sisters, their feminist mother, and what it takes to love someone—whether it be family, friends, or spouses—for life.

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child, raising three daughters, Liane, Ilsa and Fiona (each by different fathers) largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her—and while she’s fearful of losing him, she’s equally afraid she’ll betray everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Her youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with the love of her life. But he has an ex-wife and two daughters—and her new role as “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, which makes her own past harder to ignore. To regain stability, she must face some hard truths, and alter her impossibly high expectations.

Through these alternating perspectives, and with pitch-perfect honesty and heartwarming humor, Stapley explores sex, marriage, and how the many roles that women play are often at odds with each other. Ultimately a celebration of the redemptive power of love in all its forms, Mating for Life is a stunning, memorable debut.

*

This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

About the book: Rose and Windy are summer friends whose families have visited Awago Beach for as long as they can remember. But this year is different, and they soon find themselves tangled in teen love and family crisis. From the creators of Skim comes an investigation into the mysterious world of adults.

Sure, Rose’s dad is still making cheesy and embarrassing jokes, but her mother is acting like she doesn’t even want to be there. Plus, being at the cottage isn’t just about going to the beach anymore. Now Rose and Windy are spending a lot of their time renting scary movies and spying on the teenagers who work at the corner store, as well as learning stuff about sex no one mentioned in health class.

Pretty soon everything is messed up. Rose’s father leaves the cottage and returns to the city, and her mother becomes more and more withdrawn. While her family is falling to pieces, Rose focuses her attention on Dunc, a teenager working at the local corner store. When Jenny, Dunc’s girlfriend, claims to be pregnant, the girls realize that the teenagers are keeping just as many secrets as the adults in their lives.

No one seems to want to talk about the things that matter. When the tension between Dunc and Jenny boils over, Jenny makes a desperate and destructive move and Rose's mother is galvanized into action. In the aftermath, nothing is completely resolved, but secrets have been aired, which means that things are at least a bit better for everyone. For Rose and Windy, the end of summer brings the realization that, while Awago Beach might always be the same, they have both been changed forever.

From Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, creators of the multi-award-winning graphic novel Skim, comes a stunning and authentic story of friendship, illustrated with subtly heart-breaking moments and pure summer joy.

May 23, 2019
Books mentioned in this post
The Last Woman

The Last Woman

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged :
More Info
Sodom Road Exit

Sodom Road Exit

edition:Paperback
More Info
The Dancehall Years

The Dancehall Years

A West Coast saga from Bowen Island, 1939
edition:Paperback
More Info
How Deep is the Lake

How Deep is the Lake

A Century at Chilliwack Lake
edition:Paperback
More Info
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