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Summer of '69

Summer of '69

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It's 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother's historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha's Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, each of them hiding a troubling secret. As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country.
ISBN: 9780316420006
Characteristics: Kit contains 9 regular print copies, 2 large print copies, and readers' guides
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Jun 06, 2020

I enjoy beach stories, whether they're about bad boys, good detectives, middling lawyers, girls becoming women, lost housewives, libraries or bakers. Up and down any coast, I find the places as interesting as the drama and the melodrama, the light humor and the snarky retorts.

The 'Author's Note' explained that the 'Summer of '69' was written as a birthday gift for her twin brother, Eric. That is truly lovely. I also think the 'Summer of '69' is a bit of a self-indulgence by/for the author.

I turned 17 the summer of 1969, about to enter my senior year of high school in NW Ohio. I was an Italian girl raised in a Polish neighborhood of a big city, who spent all her years previous to high school in a Catholic school where my life revolved and was the only life I knew. We moved to the small town outside of the city as I began high school. I was a fish out of water compared to these girls who grew up together. It was a revelation.

Even having lived through the era, even after all the beach books I've read, I simply cannot relate to the 'Summer of '69'. Yes, I knew already graduated boys, young men, who were drafted into the Vietnam war; yes, we drank 3.2 beer, yes we had innocent romances, saw the moon launch, the protests and the despicable behavior of the last Kennedy son. But I could not relate to the WASP lifestyle and attitude of this family.

I thought the story was an interesting break from the WW1 and WW2 fiction I've been reading but in a vanilla sort of way. I like vanilla, but I much prefer maple and a few nuts.

I did the math. I was nearly 84% through the book before I found an idea so profound that I had to mark it: "Her mother is a human being who feels pain - sadness, loneliness, confusion. Jessie thought all grown-ups lived in a different atmosphere, one that was like a cool, clear gel. Adults had problems, Jessie knew - money and their children- but one of the benefits of reaching adulthood, she thought, was that you outgrew the raw, hot, chaotic emotions of adolescence."

How beautifully true! Thank you to the author for recognizing it. I used to sort of roll my eyes when older people remarked they were invisible to the world around them. Now, I am that older, invisible person, but still with some raw, hot, chaotic emotions.

The second profound revelation for the same, young, 13 year old, character came some pages later: "Maturity and responsibility, she thinks. And then, a radical idea seizes her. When she was a child, she told her parents everything: I'm hungry, I'm tired, I need to use the bathroom, I skinned my knee, I like, I hate, I want, I need. What if growing up means keeping somethings to herself? The experiences of this summer will become as much a part of her as her bones and muscle, her brain and heart. Ten or twenty years from now, when she looks back on the summer of 1969, she will think That was the summer I became real. My own real person."

I can't imagine having been that self-aware at 13.

I've read reviews elsewhere in which some are referring to the 'Summer of '69' as historical fiction. In historical fiction the events are essential to the story. Simply mentioning a few well known events that occurred in a specific time is not historical fiction. This story is more about the pretense of the family than the world and cultural events that happened to take place around them.

As a side note, I didn't read one tiniest sentence in the 'Summer of '69' that was at all reflected by the cover. Did whomever chose the cover actually read the book? There is not an iota of the joy that cover portrays in the story.

3 stars


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