Review: The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

  • Paperback:320 pages
  • Publisher:Mira; Original edition (May 31, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0778312917
  • Source: Planned Television Arts

Childhood friends Samantha, Isabel, Kendra and Mina get together every summer at some luxurious vacation spot, joined by their parents. This year, however, the clan is not complete; Mina lost her battle with cancer six months ago.  They all join Sam at a beach house in the Honduras, struggling to fill the space missing since Mina’s death.

To Sam, it seems wrong not to have Mina around. In addition to dealing with her good friend’s death, she’s struggling with her own identity.  Her boyfriend, a weathly, attractive, French man, proposes marriage. She’s happy with him, but is that enough? She battles with how this big decision will influence her future?  She uses a journal Mina left behind as a sort of “Magic 8″ ball; she asks Mina a question, opening to a random spot in the journal, hoping for some of Mina’s wisdom.

Mina’s not the only one missing from this year’s get together.  Kendra, one of the strongest women of the group, chooses not to join her friends (and parents) this year.  She’s struggling with her own decision. She’s always been the one to make the right decision, always the responsible one. This time, however, things are different.  She’s unable to admit to her closest friends that she’s made a huge mistake, forcing instead to deal with this on her own.

The parents, the older generation, share their insights with the girls, each revealing an elaborate past the girls were unfamiliar with.  This information, and the “messages” Mina appears to be leaving behind for the girls, reveal to each one of them the paths they must take in order to find true happiness.

The Summer We Came to Life is quite an emotional read; not only are the girls still healing from the loss of their best friend, they are all struggling to find their own identities.  Each one thinks rather rationally, not realizing it is their own heart they should follow, the only thing in life that is consistently honest. Cloyed does an outstanding job at building and revealing each of these characters.  One can’t help but feel for Samantha, the lead character.  She seems to be taking Mina’s death the hardest, she still has yet to return to the “real world” and deal with her future.  Life is difficult, meant to be challenged.  Nothing worth living for every comes easily, a stark reality Sam must face.

There is a great deal of discussion about physics in this book, the idea that objects can move between alternate universes.  At first, I thought this was just random filler information thrown in for effect, but ultimately it becomes an integral part of the story, adding a slightly paranormal/”otherworldly” feel to the book.

The book is told in alternating chapters, each character taking the role as the narrator. At first, this got a bit confusing but once I understood and became familiar with each voice, the shift in characters became almost natural.

A lot of deep topics are discussed in this book, including important events in history such as the Iranian Revolution , the Civil Rights movements, as well as topics like the possibility of an after-life, making this the perfect book club selection. Additionally, the gorgeous Honduras setting makes this the perfect beach read.  I hate to refer to this as women’s fiction or chick-lit, because it’s so much more. It’s a book that leaves a resounding message, a book that I highly recommended.

4 Responses to Review: The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

  1. It sounds like the main characters might be my age. The book sounds very appealing to me.

  2. Sabrina Ogden

    Sounds like an interesting read. And emotional read is always good from time to time. Great review!

  3. This sounds like a good idea when I want to read something different. Thanks for the review!

  4. Marilyn E. Powers

    Will this book be published in large print? I am an avid reader but since I have AMD I must have the large print books and sometimes this puts a limit on me.
    Thanking you in advance for you response.

    Marilyn