• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 19, 2016)
The national bestselling author of Delilah’s Daughters and The Amen Sisters returns with a moving story about a single mother who, in one unforgettable summer, discovers the woman she can become.
As a single mother, Destiny makes sacrifices for her children—including saying good-bye for the summer so they can spend time with their father and stepmother. Though she’ll miss them with all her heart, the time alone gives her an opportunity to address her own needs, like finishing her college degree. But Destiny’s friends think her summer should include some romance.
Destiny doesn’t want to be set up . . . until she meets Daniel. The handsome, warm, and charming pastor soon sweeps her off her feet. But is romance what she really wants? Or needs?
As the days pass, Destiny will make new discoveries—about herself, the man she’s fallen for, and the people around her. And she’ll face challenging choices too. But most of all, she’ll grow in ways she never imagined, learning unexpected lessons about trust, forgiveness, and the price of motherhood . . . and becoming the woman she truly wants to be.
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Angela Benson is a graduate of Spelman College and the author of fourteen novels, including the Christy Award–nominated Awakening Mercy, the Essence bestsellerThe Amen Sisters, Up Pops the Devil, and Sins of the Father. She is an associate professor at the University of Alabama and lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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The whole time I was reading Angela Benson’s latest novel The Summer of Me, I kept thinking about two things: one, this author has really nailed what it is to be a single parent in the contemporary world, and two, lead-character Destiny’s experience is not all that different from my own mother, who, as she recently reminded me (and the world) through her blog, “worked at shitty jobs to pay for cello and tap lessons, big hair perms, and the latest Michael Jackson record.” (Well, it was the 80’s.)
Here’s what I loved about Destiny: unlike the hoards of Mommy-bloggers out in the world, who seem to let their role as “mother” subsume their entire personalities, Destiny is a dimensional person. She loves her kids and wants the best for them, yes. She makes choices based, at least in part, on what would be best for her kids. While I’m not a parent (I have dogs. Lots of dogs.), I have many friends who are, and most of them make their decisions in a similar fashion. But she also retains the ability to be a whole person – it’s rocky, at first, because when we meet her she’s just had a job offer – one that would have changed life as she perceived it – rescinded, so she’s not as hopeful as she should be – but once her confidence is somewhat restored, she begins to date, and make choices about what is best for her.
Here’s what I loved about The Summer of Me in general: Destiny is the center of the story but her mother and friends have their own arcs as well. They’re subtler, but they do exist. I also liked that the kids ‘read’ like real kids – not grammatically perfect fictional characters – I especially appreciated that Kenae, Destiny’s daughter, had her headphones in her ears more often than not. This is behavior I see everywhere (and, sadly, not only with kids) and it lent an air of realism to what is basically a contemporary romance novel. I also appreciated that the kid’s father and his wife were not portrayed as monsters, just as two people who share a common interest – the children – and our doing their best to work with each other. None of the relationships are perfect, but they are all fairly positive, and okay, it’s a romance novel, so it’s not like anyone was going to be truly evil, but still… Author Benson really showed off her ability to find the nuances in every-day situations and enhance them to make a compelling story.
I’m never sure if I should mention that most of the characters in this novel are people of color (which is the phrase that was in our descriptions when we were given the opportunity to choose books for this spring – Thank you TLC Book Tours for giving us such great choices), or if I should just assume that readers will understand, as I do, that a good story is a good story, that single mothers of all cultures and skin tones have similar experiences, and that you don’t have to be exactly like the protagonist of any novel to be able to relate to it. So, I’m mentioning it in this left-handed fashion, because it shouldn’t matter. (But there’s a whole rant about labeling books, and this isn’t the moment for it.)
I found The Summer of Me to be incredibly well written, just sexy enough to keep things interesting, and full of dimensional characters I truly cared about. I recommend it for anyone who wants an easy (but still satisfying) summer read, especially children of single parents.
Goes well with Chinese chicken salad and mango-peach iced tea. Followed by a phone call to your mother, whether she was a single parent, or not.
Tuesday, April 19th: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, April 20th: Comfy Reading
Friday, April 22nd: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, April 25th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Tuesday, April 26th: I’m Shelf-ish
Wednesday, April 27th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, April 28th: Bibliotica
Friday, April 29th: As I turn the pages
Monday, May 2nd: Reading is My Super Power
Tuesday, May 3rd: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, May 4th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 5th: 5 Minutes For Books