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Aug 27 2017 10:00am

First Look: Robyn Carr’s The Summer That Made Us (September 5, 2017)

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr
The Summer That Made Us
MIRA / September 5, 2017 / $15.99 print, $9.99 digital

Robyn Carr’s new release, The Summer That Made Us is very different from her previous releases. Not in a bad way – I’ll read anything that Carr writes. Still, the family structure seems more dysfunctional than any other book that she has written. Of course, that makes for fascinating reading because you think “wow this one incident really screw-up this family.”

And while the story is about two sisters, Louise and Jo, married to two brothers, Carl and Roy and their girls: Charlene, Hope, Megan, Krista, Beverly, and Mary Verna, the family dysfunctional started with their parents’ marriage:

Grandma said the judge was bought and paid for. And she was angry about it.”

“What kind of business did your grandfather run in Chicago?” Krista asked.

“He was a mortician!” Jo said. “A very successful mortician! And, after they got married and were living in St. Paul, Grandma said the judge got mean. He had a temper, she said. He slapped her around and threw things. Back in those days one never talked about domestic abuse, never. But Grandma was too smart for the judge. She called her father. And her father had what she called connections. Grandma said a couple of men visited the judge and explained, very carefully, that her parents were worried about her and didn’t want to think for one second that she wasn’t being well cared for. After listening to her talk like this for a couple of years, I got the idea my grandfather, Grandma’s daddy, was connected to the mob in Chicago. But your aunt Lou thought Grandma was senile. That’s when Grandma said, “Senile, eh? You’re lucky to have been born. The judge hit me, knocked me down and kicked in the stomach when I was pregnant with you!”

Maybe their parents’ lack of love for each other caused the sisters to depend on each other. Growing up the sisters were close, and stayed close even after they married. Jo and Louise complemented each other. Without Jo, Louise was too hard, too rigid, and without Louise, Jo had no spine. . . no backbone.

Each summer the Louise and Jo would pack the kids up and they would spend the summer at the family’s cabin. The young girls lived for the summer. Oh, sure the cousins bickered once in a while –they were kids, but mostly it was an idyllic time for the adults and kids. Until Mary Verna—Bunny—drowned. This event tore the sisters apart, and in the process destroyed two families.

Louise’s family is the one that lost a daughter and a sister –and the family did struggle. Megan became pregnant that summer and Louise heartbroken and hardened by her loss refused to let Megan keep the baby—forcing Charlene to give her daughter up for adoption. Megan had a breakdown, forgetting one whole year of her life. The sisters’ relationship with their mother was never the same—mainly because Louise wasn’t the same.

But it was Jo’s family that became the most impaired. Jo married the weak brother, and without her sister’s strength, her world fell apart. Her daughter Hope left her mother’s home for her grandparents to live the life of a debutante. Her perception of reality was always slightly skewed but with time has only gotten worse:

Frank? What about... what about Pam?”

Hope laughed indulgently. “Pam? Maxie darling, sometimes you have such a passion for indiscretion! Franklin might take liberties with my feelings. . . successful men are used to giving orders and having their way, often taking their wives completely for granted. But I’d doubt even Franklin would be so crude as to bring Pam along on our family vacation!”

There was silence on Maxine’s end. Hope began to fidget.

“Pam is temporary, Maxine. If it hasn’t worn itself out yet, it will soon.

“Hope, forgive me, but I don’t think Frank regards Pam as temporary,” Maxine said.

Hope laughed again, but her laugh was hollow this time. “But of course, she is!” . . .

“Hope!” He divorced you! Years ago! He’s remarried. They have a child!

And Krista got involved with the wrong crowd and ended up in prison after her grandfather, the Judge refused to help:

There was no question in Krista’s mind she deserved to go to prison for the bad things she’d done. She and Rick stole, did drugs and sometimes sold them; she prostituted herself for money and kept downright evil company. But she never owned a gun and was opposed to doing bodily harm to anyone. . . When she realized Rick had used a gun to rob a gas station she panicked and tried to leave him. He responded by finding her and beating her senseless in the bedroom of a house while there was a party going on. A bunch of people were right outside the door and could hear his first crunching into her face and body. They heard her screaming heard her begging. When she found out Rick had actually shot a man, who later died in another robbery, just the fact that she showed fear and remorse caused him to beat her again.

Beverly ended up in foster care after Jo fell apart and became so attached to the foster family that she never returned home to her mother.

Now Megan is fighting stage four cancer, and her one wish is to return to the cabin and recreate those halcyon days and heal the wounds of the family.

Carr works her magic as readers are drawn into the many problems of the family. Charlene’s career has stalled, and this has caused problems in her long-term relationship with her son’s father. Krista is unexpectedly freed from prison but faces many new challenges. Megan of course if facing the biggest challenge – fighting for her life –but does she really want to fight anymore? And can Jo and Louise ever forgive each other?

Although the story is a bit unrealistic, it is pure entertainment with the book having a very satisfying conclusion. And yes, there is a bit of romance to satisfy the romance reader.

***

Learn more about or pre-order a copy of The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr, available September 5, 2017:

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H&H Editor Picks:

Robyn Carr Excerpt: The Summer That Made Us

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Scarlettleigh, blogger.

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