Initial reaction: I’m not a fan of the narrative style, and there are many contemplative sections between three different POVs that make the narrative more sluggish than it ought to have been, but surprisingly…I liked this. The story came together much better than I expected, and I’d say it’d appeal well to literary fiction lovers and those who like women’s fiction as well. Probably giving it around 3.5 stars.
Meg Donohue’s “All the Summer Girls” is the first book I’ve read from the author, and I’m surprised by how it pulled me into the narrative despite toggling between three different women’s lives that converge one summer as they spend a vacation in a place that holds very dark memories for them. I say this is surprising because I’m not that much a fan of the narrative style here as it tends to meander a bit between three different POV sets that might be difficult to keep track of and tends to be lost in a sea of meditations of regret through each character. Yet, I found myself drawn to the stories of Kate, Dani, and Vanessa – 29 year olds (my present age at the time of my writing this review) who find themselves at tough spots in their lives and take one summer vacation for a “girl’s trip” to reconnect. Yet each of the women have their dark secrets over a tragedy that once ripped them apart, and threatens to toggle the balance between them yet again as confessions come to the surface.
Kate’s a woman who’s six weeks pregnant and has just been dumped by her longtime fiance. Dani’s stuck in a difficult place, being a writer who just lost her last day job in a string of one too many screw-ups. She’s facing the possibility to move back home, though her father may not necessarily welcome her with open arms. Vanessa’s distraught over a shared kiss her husband shared with another woman, and finds herself drawn to an old flame that she doesn’t know whether she wants to pull him closer, or push away. Ultimately speaking, these women have a lot to deal with in the form of regret. But they all have some sentiments in common – finding it hard to let go of the past. With Kate, especially, it involves her dead twin Colin, who’s death has left a shadow over the relationship between the three. The surprising detail in this is that they all hold a particular piece of guilt surrounding Colin’s death, and it takes the ladies summer trip to make them realize how the pieces fit, and have a coming to terms after the secrets emerge and work their way in succession.
I did not expect the novel to come together so well in the end with each of the ladies’s connections to the tragedy. Maybe some would find it to be too neatly tied, but the grief that Kate, Dani, and Vanessa feel is very real, and while the narrative is a bit more sluggish in pacing and presentation than I would’ve liked, in the end – I appreciated it for taking the time to develop the three women, and I realized the pertinence of having the perspective points showcased the way they were. In the end, I thought the novel brought the relationship of Kate, Dani, and Vanessa full circle and the resolutions were well noted for the coming to terms.
It’s definitely a novel that those who like women’s fiction/literary fiction would appreciate. I wouldn’t call it as much a fulfilling “summer” adult story, but it’s one that deals with grief and life events well for its characters, and I appreciated all it had to offer.
Overall score: 3.5/5 stars
Note: I recieved this as an ARC from Edelweiss, from the publisher.