The light in Angela’s backyard was dappled by the trees, as it always was in the full of their season, but there was enough of it to read by. She’d cut the grass that morning, and it’s fragrance still lingered. The family of birds that made their home in her yard – red-breasted nuthatches, according to the bird book – twittered and shook the leaves overhead, but when she looked up she couldn’t see them. They were alive and hidden, like the past, or the future. She opened the book on her chest and put one foot down on the grass to make the hammock rock. It was like pushing out to sea in a rowboat. So this is summer reading, she thought….from Summer Reading, by Hilma Wolitzer
Ah, Michigan, finally you’re fulfilling the promise of spring. I bustled through the house today, throwing wide all the windows, dusting off long unused blades of ceiling fans, rummaging through the piles of boots on my closet floor to find my most comfortable sandals. Today offered us every element of the summer weather to come, complete with a thunderstorm which blustered through just after dinner.
So it was the perfect day to finish Summer Reading(the novel) and begin to think about summer reading (in general). Although I didn’t have a hammock to relax in, I dragged my Adirondack chairs into the middle of the backyard, and with Magic and Molly happily stretched out in the green grass at my feet, set to reading.
Summer Readingis about three very different women whose lives intersect through reading. There’s Angela Graves, a retired English professor who leads reading groups; Lissy Snyder, a young society wife spending her first summer in the Hamptons; and Michelle Cutty, a local girl who works as Lissy’s summer “help.” Each woman is struggling with personal issues surrounding their relationships and their past, and each woman finds enlightenment of sorts in the summer reading Angela sets the group. Angela believes that literature “teaches us how to live,” and as her group studies the words of authors from Flaubert (Madame Bovary) to Garcia-Marquez (Love in the Time of Cholera), their summer reading appears to prove this theory.
While the premise might sound cliche, award winning author Hilma Wolitzer makes the novel work very well. It was actually the perfect way to get in the mood for planning my own summer bookstack. Although I’ve read nearly all the novels taken up by the Page Turners (the aptly named reading group in Wolitzer’s novel), I’m sure I’ll find plenty of others to pique my interest. After reading this novel, I was in complete agreement with this assessment of Angela’s – “the never ending marvel of other people’s lives was precisely what she had always loved in literature.”