Character driven family drama in The Summer We Fell Apart

When I first began reading The Summer We Fell Apart, I instantly fell in love with the narrator Amy, the youngest daughter of the Haas family and her innocent analysis of one summer in her life.  Her mother is an actress and her father is a writer and both are overly dramatic and uncaring.   They hurt each other and ultimately hurt their children, though perhaps unintentionally.  Amy, a high school student, is not only dreading the departure of her favorite brother George for college, but also trying to understand Miriam, the slightly older exchange student who comes to live with them. Her voice was touching and innocent, but still aware that her life and the lives of her siblings were changing forever that summer, when their father finally left their mother.

When I realized that the different parts of the novel were from different perspectives, one part for each Haas child, I was disappointed because Amy was so unique and I absolutely did not want to leave her. Fortunately, each and every single character surprised me: I enjoyed all of the characters and their respective sections of the book.  Each voice managed to be unique, while at the same time bringing new insights to the character.  It was a very perfect example of how to pull off this style.  Too often with alternating narrators or changing narrators, one becomes more believable or more enjoyable to read than the other.  Antalek never falls into this this trap, instead each section informs the reader about a character’s motivations.

The title to this novel is somewhat misleading as this book does not only take place during one summer, but it’s about the consequences that summer had on the family for many years to come.  We are first introduced to Amy and George when they are in high school, but end when they are in their late twenties/early thirties.  I was instantly drawn to Amy in her introductory section and Antalek was smart to allow Amy to begin the story, because she did not quite understand everything that was happening and that allowed the story to be unfurl gracefully, with each child revealing a little bit more.  George, the younger brother, also had a wonderful voice that I loved immediately.  He falls in love with the fathers of one of his students and it’s a really touching love story.

I really wasn’t looking forward to Kate’s section because of the descriptions of her provided by George and Amy: overbearing and rude.  However, this is really where Antalek proved that she knew what she was doing.  Kate’s section helped me to understand her character, and even though I didn’t always like what she was doing, I at least got where she was coming from.  Finally there is Finn’s section, the shortest, but one of the most important.  The culmination of the consequences of that summer in one tragic event brought the children and their mother together again to face their responsibility and their injuries.

The Summer We Fell Apart really surprised me.  Though the subject matter was heavy, it is a very hopeful novel that acknowledges not only the ways that families can hurt us, but also the way they can comfort and shelter us, even when we are least expecting it.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from TLC Book Tours.  Next stop: Dolce Belleza.

21 thoughts on “Character driven family drama in The Summer We Fell Apart

  1. I havent heard of this book before you mentioned it today. Sounds like its an interesting read, I will see if its published in the UK yet. Also what a gorgeous cover it has, I would probably have picked it up and had a browse for that alone.

    1. Simon: It is a really pretty cover, and one that is relevant too! I hate book covers that seem like boring stock photography.

  2. I, sadly, could relate to Kate because of that biggest, bossy older sister thing. Sometimes I think I come across that way, and I don’t mean to do it on purpose! I loved how the book showed us siblings that were all for one and one for all, basically. It made me glad for my brother in so many ways, even though we’re so very different.

    Love, love, love the L’Engle quote in your header. And, it’s new to me when I thought I knew everything she ever wrote. Must be the Kate in me. 😉

    1. Bellezza: I could relate to Kate too, but I was also kind of afraid of her. Or at least, afraid of becoming her. I’m the oldest of 4, so I’m sure I’m way too bossy sometimes. Thank you about the L’Engle quote. It’s from one of her acceptance speeches!

  3. I was actually supposed to read this and post about it for the tour tomorrow, but I got to that first descriptive vomiting scene and said woah I can’t do that, so I talked to Trish and mailed it off to another person who wanted to participate. I didn’t get far enough in to really connect with anyone.

  4. Looks interesting! Especially since I beleive that no child has the same perspective on things and life, even siblings raised in the same family.

  5. Great review, Lu! I know how disappointed I am when an author uses various narrators after I get attached to the one, but am pleasantly surprised when the author actually uses this technique well. 🙂

    Thanks for being on this tour!

  6. Wow I have to agree with everyone else. . . this review rocks. I immediately snub books with alternating povs. It’s just one of my peet peeves, ya’know. But you might have me convinced on this one!

    1. Christina: I don’t necessarily snub them, but I have to say that it is always a disappointment when they don’t do it successfully. I think this one is pretty successful on all accounts. My only real complaint was that the first section was in the first person and the other 4 were third person. Not sure why.

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