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Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle


by Peter S. Beagle

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A retelling of the Persephone myth. Joanna and Abe are a long term couple, more than twenty years together, not married. Abe is retired and Joanna is near to retirement. They live on Gardner Island, near Seattle. While dining at their favorite restaurant they meet their waitress, a mesmerizing young woman named Lioness. She is new in town and needs a place to stay. They invite her to stay in an apartment over Abe's garage. Once Lioness is living with them they start to notice strange things: the weather is always spring-like, she can pull arm loads of flowers from the ground, she can speak to whales, and can move from place to place without seeming to actually move. They also realize that she is hiding from someone. By the time her mother (Demeter) and her husband (Hades) come to take her back home she has changed the lives and relationship of Abe and Joanna.
The story was okay. The most interesting parts were where the mythical came to life in the present. As always Beagle's prose is lovely. ( )
  VioletBramble | Apr 28, 2017 |
Abe is a retired history professor living on Gardner Island. He has been attempting to write a book for years and loves to play the blues on his harmonica. Joanna lives in Seattle when she is not on the island with Abe. She is an airline attendant doing her best to avoid retirement and worrying about her adult daughter, Lily who seems to have a preternatural knack for finding the most unsuitable lovers. Abe and Joanna have a long-term relation that is, if not exciting, comfortable despite or perhaps because of their long periods of separation. It is a relationship sustained more by friendship and familiarity than by passion. They have learned to make compromises to make their relationship work: Abe limits the amount of time he plays his harmonica because it irritates Joanna and she keeps secret her yearning to go on a long kayaking trip despite having never kayaked because she knows Abe would worry especially when he learns that she wants to go alone.

When they meet Lioness, a new young waitress at their favourite diner who is looking for a warm place to stay, they offer her their garage But no one is more surprised than they at this offer. They are usually very careful about protecting their privacy but there is just something about this young woman. For one thing, her arrival on the island seems to coincide with an unusual period of seemingly endless summer.

But it soon becomes apparent that Lioness is hiding something in her past that will have an impact on the seeming idyllic life on Gardner Island. When this past finally catches up with her, she decides to break the impasse that exists in Abe’s and Joanna’s relationship. On the surface, her method seems cruel and completely out of character but is, in fact, a last gift. As in the myth that inspired this novel, as much as we may hate it, summer must end so that we can prepare for winter, and familiarity and peace in a relationship is not enough if it is purchased at the expense of our dreams; sometimes, like the bandaid on a cut, there is required a quick and painful yank to remove it so that the air can get in –the shock may be upsetting, there may be blood and it may hurt for a while but, eventually, it is clear that it was necessary if real healing is to occur.

Summerlong by author Peter S. Beagle is a beautiful tale mixing myth with reality written in the lyrical prose that is his trademark. It is a reminder that life is too short to spend it in a rut no matter how comfortable and that we need the seasons in our lives as much as we need them in the year. It is a story about taking risks, of letting go of the past to enjoy the future, that summer is not the end but rather a new beginning, a time to harvest what we have spent our spring and summer sowing. In many ways, it reminded me as much of Eccleastes 3:1-8 as it did mythology:

To Everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven

Thanks to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review ( )
  lostinalibrary | Oct 28, 2016 |
Hmm, not sure about this one yet. I'll let it simmer a day or two before I select a rating.
One month later...

Believe it or not, I haven't read The Last Unicorn yet. Yeah, yeah, I know; it's on my list. I figured my unfamiliarity might actually help Summerlong in that I'm not comparing it to what many consider Beagle's greatest work. However, absent any sentimental attachment may have worked against Summerlong.

This story is very much tailored to a specific reader. I felt like it may've even been Beagle working out some personal issues of his own or someone close to him. What with Joanna being 56 and Abe being 66, and them both so captivated by a girl they believe to be decades younger. There's no question the writing was beautiful. In fact, that's what kept me turning the page. Not me caring about the characters, just me enjoying the words more than anything else.

While I enjoyed the mythic elements Persephone and Hades; Orpheus and Eurydice those almost seemed an afterthought to the story of an aging, unmarried couple of 20 years wrestling with "What now?" and other questions asked by those who've become complacent in their career, relationships and life. After Abe "rescued" Lioness at the diner drove her home and had sex with her, I was done. Not that Joanna's reaction was any better, but it was at that point I realized I no longer cared at all where the story went. But I finished it anyway.

In the end, the best thing about Summerlong was the harmonious blending of reality and myth. Oh, and the GORGEOUS cover! It'd almost be worth buying the book just to stare at the cover whenever I wanted to.

3 stars ( )
  flying_monkeys | Oct 19, 2016 |
This novel has some of the most beautiful prose. Everything is described with loving detail; I could smell the spring in the PNW and feel the damp air. (of course, I have been in the Pacific Northwest enough to have a head start on that, but still) Early in the book I started caring about the characters.

Joanna Delvecchio is the head steward on a regular Seattle/Chicago run, and counting the days left before she can retire. She’s had a 20-some year relationship with Abe Aronson, retired history professor, which she refuses to admit is a relationship. Her daughter, Lily, can’t seem to find the right woman. It’s a nice life, with great regularity to it. When they meet the new waitress at their favorite little restaurant, she rocks the lives of all of them.

Lioness Lazos, needing a place to stay, moves into Abe’s garage. She has nearly nothing and is fine with that. She is hiding from someone and traveling lightly. But things start changing the minute she arrives. Abe and Del start living out their dreams apart from each other. Lily falls in love with Lioness. The neighbor kids learn how to produce flowers from bare soil… instantly. Spring comes early and lasts all summer and fall.

It’s obvious pretty quickly that this is not your average novel but a fairy tale. I figured out who Lioness really was pretty quickly. While I knew what would have to happen with Lioness, I did not expect what she would do before giving in to it. And I do know *why* she did it. That’s one of my quibbles with the book: Lioness is a cypher. Everyone loves her on sight, but she does little and says little. Of course she’s a magical being, but still. She’s interacting on a human level, so I expected more humanity from her. She had to know that what she did would destroy Abe and Del’s relationship; did she think she was doing them some sort of favor? Or did she just not care, and was indulging herself? The ending left me angry at her and at Abe.

Still, even though I was not happy with the ending, I enjoyed most of the book too much to not like it as a whole. It was a magical read and I rushed through it, not wanting to stop reading. I guess I just expected a happy ending from a fairy tale like this! ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Oct 16, 2016 |
Summerlong is not a book filled with action, suspense, steamy romance, or even mystery.

I had guessed at the theme of it and true identity of Lioness within the first few chapters. It was confirmed for me before I even got half way and I frightened my cat with my loud declaration of "I knew it!" Personally I adore mythology and one of my favorites was the story of Persephone and Hades, so knowing that Lioness was Persephone on the run just made me more eager to continue reading.

That said this book is a beautifully written work. Beagle truly has a way with words. The only way I can describe it is lyrical. I found myself carried away by the story and the people in it. All the characters felt like real people. Granted there were moments where the dialogue was too lyrical, beautiful writing making people speak as most people wouldn't in life, but it wasn't enough to pull me from the characters or their story.

I also think the length is perfect for the novel. Not only does it make it a nice quick read but if it had been much longer I could see it taking away from the story itself. Some stories are meant to be shorter than others.

All in all I'm very happy I picked up this book and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a read with a focus on real human relationships, faults and all, with a sprinkling of the fantastical. ( )
  Alexis_D. | Sep 22, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter S. Beagleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Korzeniewska, MagdalenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Story, ElizabethDesign & cover designsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Peggy Carlisle, who earned it all
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With so many flights coming in, from so many different points of the compass, he had no way of knowing certainly whether this one was hers.
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