Title: The Summer We Fell Apart
Author: Robin Antalek
Published: January, 2010
Number of pages: 384
Reviewed for TLC Book Tours
For the first 50 pages of this book, I didn’t think I had anything in common with the characters. It reminded me of Augusten Burrough’s Running With Scissors: dysfunctional family with a capital D.
The mother is the star of horror films, the father is a philandering fool, and the four children are basically left to bring themselves up in the tilted, falling down Victorian which is their home.
But, the more I read the more I connected with the children. I mourned the loss of their parents; while alive, they could hardly be called parents in the sense that I think of parenting: nurturers, advisors, comforters, a source of stability in an unstable world. I read of the son, George, and his love affair with Sam, with a bizarre hope that they would be able to meet each other’s needs. So carefully were they drawn that I could feel their need acutely.
When I came to the part of the story told through the oldest sister, Kate, I was in complete empathy. Perhaps oldest children are able to relate to each other no matter what their gender, home town, or vocation. Certainly Kate and I have nothing in common with our careers; she was a lawyer from Washington, D.C., I’m simply a teacher of eight year olds. But, in everything else I can relate to her whole heartedly. Somehow, we both feel the need to make sure everyone’s all right, we borrow guilt if we aren’t manufacturing enough on our own, we worry and work and stress as if everything depends on us.
I wonder if the title, The Summer We Fell Apart, isn’t a misnomer. In many ways, it seems that it was the summer everything was levelled off so that a fresh beginning could occur. At least the siblings had a chance to pull together, to find the best quality each one possessed, and to make a family of their own. Afterall, it’s the sisters and brothers who are left to carry on in every family, if they’re fortunate enough to have one another.
(Find a YouTube clip on this book here.)