Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: The Summer We Fell Apart

Summary: The children of a once-brilliant playwright and a struggling actress, the four Haas siblings grew up in chaos—raised in an environment composed of neglect and glamour in equal measure. When their father dies, they must depend on their intense but fragile bond to remember what it means to be family despite years of anger and hurt. These brothers and sisters are painfully human, sometimes selfish, and almost always making the wrong decisions, but their endearing struggles provide laughter through tears—something anyone who's ever had a sibling can relate to. -- Harper

I have a pretty normal family and a pretty uneventful life as those things go, but I still love to read books about mixed-up and crazy families. The latest one that I enjoyed was THE SUMMER WE FELL APART by Robin Antalek. THE SUMMER WE FELL APART tells the story of the Haas family and how the kids managed to cope (or not cope as the case may be) with their non-traditional upbringing.

At first I wasn't sure that I was going to enjoy this book. It took me a while to get into the story, but I decided to stick with it because I normally enjoy books like this one. I admit that it was kind of slow-going for me for the first 75 pages or so, and then the book really took off! By the time I was on to the second section of the book, I couldn't put it down. I felt as if I got to know each of the family members (I became invested in their lives) and I had to find out what happened to each one of them.

I ended up really enjoying this novel, and I think any reader who enjoys stories about family dynamics will appreciate it. For the most part, I liked seeing the relationship between the children and how close some of them were because of their past. There is no doubt that each of the children were affected in some way because of their upbringing. I think the author did a great job of developing each of the characters (quirks and all) along with creating the interactions between them. The sibling relationships and their feelings toward each other seemed very real and honest to me. Because of their unusual family, the children were forced to band together; and as a result, some of them were very close to each other.

One thing I found interesting about this novel was how the author chose to tell the story. The book is divided into sections for each character -- the four children and their mother. Each section definitely has a different and distinct feel to it, and I liked that the first section -- Amy's story -- was written in first person narrative while the other four sections were written in third person. In addition, I found it interesting that the reader never gets to see the father's side of the story. (I definitely intend to ask the author about this tomorrow night!) I also appreciated that some of the stories were told by multiple characters because I could see the different views and gather additional insight that way.

On Monday, January 25th at 7:00 p.m. ET, Ms. Antalek will be joining Book Club Girl on Air to discuss THE SUMMER WE FELL APART. I already have a list of questions to ask her, and I'm sure the other readers will as well. It's bound to be an interesting discussion talking about this novel and the unique characters in it. You can set a reminder here.

I have a feeling that THE SUMMER WE FELL APART would make a fabulous book club discussion book, especially if your group likes to delve into characters and their actions. There is a reading guide available with tons of questions -- the guide has ten questions, but there are multiple questions within each question. Of course, the major topic for discussion is family relations (namely dysfunctional family dynamics); but there are many other themes including surprise, neglect, abuse, adultery, love, and hope (thank goodness). After I finished this novel, I found that I really did want to talk about the characters with someone. That's usually a pretty good indication that a book would make a good book club pick.

Thanks to Book Club Girl for sending me a copy of this novel in preparation for the BlogTalk Radio show.


Jen (Devourer of Books) said...

I want to read this, so I'm glad to know it starts off slow then picks up, that will help me keep going.

bermudaonion said...

I was hooked on this book right from the start and really enjoyed it, but I'm not totally sure why, if that makes any sense at all. Great review!

Beth F said...

I've had this one on my radar. Thanks for the warning of the slow start -- I'll stick with it.

Molly said...

I also enjoy stories like this and will definitely be on the look out for it.

I hope I am able to listen to her interview on Book Club Girl on Air tomorrow night!

Lisa said...

It does sound like a great book club selection. I'm going to be reading it soon so I don't know if I want to listen to the Book Club Girl talk until after I read it. But I might not be able to resist!

Michelle said...

This definitely sounds interesting. Great review! You have me adding it to my wish list!

Amused said...

I love books about families like this. Thanks for the tip - I'll have to keep an eye out for it!