Friday, October 7, 2011

Summer the South by Cathy Houlton *****

Summer in the South by Cathy Houlton opens with Ava Dabrowski, grown daughter of peripatetic, hippie mom Clotilde, struggling to write a novel which writing while working at an ad agency in Chicago. In frustration she quits her job and accepts a room for the summer in rural Tennessee from a friend from school, Will Fraser, with an old southern family. Imagine the child of a live-for-moment hippie in with a family who consider everyone who made their money after the War of 1812 to be new money.

This is a great novel, not because it is yet another obituary for the antebellum south, though it is partially that; nor because it is yet another condemnation of an arrogant aristocracy, though it is partially that also. At its core, Summer in the South, is about finding identity in the 21st century.

The protagonists are struggling to find themselves in a world of overwhelming parents and ancestors. Eva constantly tries to reconcile her life with her mother's and her estranged father's, while Will is saddled with 200 years of family history and secrets. In the end both have to break with the past, and learn to be their own person. The way this unfolds makes this novel compelling and enlightening.

I found the climax and resolution surprising, believable and hopeful.

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