Review: The Gypsy Moth Summer, by Julia Fierro

About the book, The Gypsy Moth Summer Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (June 6, 2017)
  • Scroll down for giveaway

It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island–dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island’s leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.

It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall–only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family–returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in “The Castle,” the island’s grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.

Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island’s bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island–and its patriarch, the Colonel–be to blame?

As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie’s and Brooks’ passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.

Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders; a plotting aged matriarch and her husband, a demented military patriarch; and a troubled young boy, each seeking his or her own refuge, escape and revenge, The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.

Buy, read, and discuss Gypsy Moth Summer:

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About the author, Julia Fierro Julia Fierro

JULIA FIERRO is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to more than 4,000 writers in New York City, Los Angeles and online. Her first novel CUTTING TEETH, was praised by The Boston Globe (“at once modern and timeless”) and The New Yorker (“a comically energetic début”).  A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Julia lives in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Connect with Julia:

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My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I was hooked from the first page of this novel The Gypsy Moth Summer, and author Fierro’s description of the way different sets of the younger residents of Avalon Island sought refuge in the woods on summer evenings. That description really resonated with my own memories of coming home, hot and pink, from the Jersey shore, and then wandering around my grandparents’ neighborhood until after dusk, playing freeze-tag with my friends, or hunting fireflies, or, later, finding that one spot where the honeysuckle vines formed a privacy curtain for a little private time with the boy of the moment.

With the subsequent introduction to Maddie, part of the IT-girl group, but not really one of them, I went from ‘hooked’ to ‘totally enthralled.’ I was twenty-two when this novel took place, but I remember what it was like to be on the fringe of different popular groups, wanting to be part of them, but never really meshing with the groupthink.

Beyond high school girl dynamics, though, this novel has it all – mysterious residents who return with new families, young love, small town scandal, and, of course, the life cycle of gypsy moths juxtaposed against it all.

Part classic beach read, part gripping community drama, part mystery, all brilliantly put together with language that moves from vivid and lyrical to snappy dialogue and back, as necessary, The Gypsy Moth Summer should be at the top of your summer reading list.

Goes well with a soft pretzel and an orange julius-type drink, preferably enjoyed on a boardwalk, amusement pier, or at a county fair.

Giveaway Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

One lucky reader in the US or Canada will win a copy of this novel. How? Leave a comment here telling me about your favorite summer refuge. Include a valid email so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway ends Wednesday, June 14th at 11:59 PM CDT.

Julia Fierro’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, May 31st: BookNAround

Friday, June 2nd: View from the Birdhouse

Sunday, June 4th: Writer Unboxed – author guest post

Monday, June 5th: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, June 6th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Wednesday, June 7th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, June 8th: Bibliotica

Friday, June 9th: Readaholic Zone

Monday, June 12th: Girl Who Reads

Tuesday, June 13th: Suzy Approved

Wednesday, June 14th: Bookchickdi

Thursday, June 15th: Wildmoo Books

Friday, June 16th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Monday, June 19th: BookBub Blog – author guest post

Monday, June 19th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, June 20th: Anita Loves Books

Wednesday, June 21st: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 22nd: Write Read Life

Friday, June 23rd: I Brought a Book

Monday, June 26th: Art, Books, & Coffee

Tuesday, June 27th: Book Chatter

Wednesday, June 28th: 5 Minutes for Books

Thursday, June 29th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, June 30th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 30th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Date TBD: Patricia’s Wisdom

Review: Cutting Teeth, by Julia Fierro

About the book, Cutting Teeth Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (May 13, 2014)

One of the most anticipated debut novels of 2014, Cutting Teeth takes place one late-summer weekend as a group of thirty-something couples gather at a shabby beach house on Long Island, their young children in tow.

Nicole, the hostess, struggles to keep her OCD behaviors unnoticed. Stay-at-home dad Rip grapples with the reality that his careerist wife will likely deny him a second child, forcing him to disrupt the life he loves. Allie, one half of a two-mom family, can’t stop imagining ditching her wife and kids in favor of her art. Tiffany, comfortable with her amazing body but not so comfortable in the upper-middle class world the other characters were born into, flirts dangerously, and spars with her best friend Leigh, a blue blood secretly facing financial ruin and dependent on the magical Tibetan nanny everyone else covets. Throughout the weekend, conflicts intensify and painful truths surface. Friendships and alliances crack, forcing the house party to confront a new order.

Cutting Teeth is about the complex dilemmas of early midlife—the vicissitudes of friendship, of romantic and familial love, and of sex. It’s about class tension, status hunger, and the unease of being in possession of life’s greatest bounty while still wondering, is this as good as it gets? And, perhaps most of all, Julia Fierro’s warm and unpretentious debut explores the all-consuming love we feel for those we need most, and the sacrifice and compromise that underpins that love.

Buy, read, discuss

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

About the author, Julia Fierro Julia Fierro

Julia Fierro’s debut novel, Cutting Teeth, was listed as one of the “Most Anticipated Books of 2014” by HuffPost Books, The Millions, Flavorwire, Brooklyn Magazine, and Marie Claire. Her work has been published, or is forthcoming, in Guernica, Ploughshares, Poets & Writers, Glamour, and other publications, and she has been profiled in the L Magazine, The Observer, and The Economist.

Connect with Julia

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

My Thoughts

Julia Fierro is an awesome writer.

I know that sounds really flippant, but seriously, she’s created this group of “mommies,” – a bunch of women, and one man – who are largely unlikeable, self-entitled, damaged people, and managed to make their lives and stories not only seem interesting, but in the process also made them into characters we can care about.

As a child-free woman in her early forties, I’m pretty certain Cutting Teeth was not written with me in mind, and, in truth, I found myself wanting to knock some sense into these people, make them wake up and realize that while their children really are not the little princes and princesses of the world, they are, in fact, actual (very small, unformed) people, and should be treated accordingly.

I also had to fight urges to crawl into the book and remind these women that it’s unhealthy (and kind of annoying) when women describe themselves as Moms or Mommies first, and only talk about their careers or the rest of their interests as things they squeeze in around the child. (This tendency annoys me in real life, as well.)

If these two statements make it seem like I didn’t “like” this book, you’re misreading. I did like it. I liked it well enough that even though I felt rather like a bug-eyed alien looking into a strange, new, world, I could accept these characters as people who could exist outside the scope of their pages.

And speaking of pages, Julia Fierro crafts an excellent story. The constant changing of POV means we get to see the way each character perceives herself, and the way each of them is perceived by the others. As well, while the women are incredibly three-dimensional, she did a good job of not making the men interchangeable hipsters or guys in pastel golf shirts and khakis (a peeve of mine that often comes up around this type of year.) Rip, the father in the group of “mommies,” Michael, and Josh are all just as dimensional as the women in their lives.

And yes, these people are largely unlikeable, so it’s pretty amazing that you end up feeling for them at the end. Cutting Teeth has struck the sweet spot of summer reading. Fast-paced enough to take to the beach, it’s also meaty enough to really sink your teeth into (no pun intended). Read it. You might find yourself shaking your fist at the characters, but you won’t be disappointed in the story.

Goes well with homemade lemonade and tuna-fish sandwiches. Followed by cocktails.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.