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Last Days of Summer Updated Ed: A Novel
(original 1998; edition 2008)
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This book is both an epistolary novel and a bildungsroman, two terms I was not familiar with prior to reading. An epistolary novel is made up entirely of letters written by the characters, which Last Days of Summer is, leading to its greatest weakness. Too often the letters contain far more exposition than a letter-writer would honestly compose. There are also far too many PS's. A bildungsroman is a fancy term for a coming of age story. The boy coming of age in this novel is Joseph Margolis, a pre-teen Broolynite in the early 1940's neglected by his divorced father, and regularly beaten for his Judaism and other qualities that make him different from the other kids in the neighborhood. To overcome this Joey regularly writes celebrities such as President Roosevelt's press secretary and the New York Giants' fictional third baseman Charlie Banks. It's with the latter that Joey strikes up a friendship (although another weakness of the novel is that Charlie's motivations in corresponding with Joey are never made clear), and eventually becomes a surrogate father figure who guides him toward adulthood. This book is really funny, especially when Charlie agrees to stand up for Joey at his Bar Mitzvah or when Joey casually interacts with celebrities when you know he's bursting inside with joy. The ending is heartbreakingly sad. Sure you could see it coming when Charlie went to war (just as Joey's anachronistic friendship with a Japanese boy would see his friend going to an internment camp), but still, I cried.
| Jun 25, 2008 |
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A poignant coming-of-age story about a boy's correspondence with a baseball star. Both have wiseass attitudes, but the relationship that develops between them is finally sweet and memorable.
| Apr 18, 2015 |
Joey Margolis is nothing if not persistent. He has grown up without a father for most of his days, and is looking for a role model, someone who will teach him things and care about him as a father should. He discovers Charlie Banks, 3rd baseman for the NY Giants, and begins writing letters to get Charlie to visit him by telling him he has incurable diseases or that he is blind. At first Charlie seems put-off by all of the attention, but slowly he comes around and starts to give Joey advice and become the role model Joey was looking for. The way this book is written is clever; it is a series of letters, newspaper articles, notes between friends, and telegrams. I like books written in this style. It gives it an authenticity to life. However, I did not like the book overall. I did not like Charlie, and didn't really see him as a hero, though for someone who is 12, as Joey is, I suppose Charlie might be. I did like Joey and his antics; I liked that he was persistent wormed his way into Charlie's life and heart. Charlie did seem to change throughout the story, but by the end, I still didn't really like him. The LA Times review said that the book "isn't about baseball. It's about a boy struggling to grow up without a father and a young man's acceptance of that role." I agree with that.
| Jul 19, 2014 |
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| Mar 6, 2014 |
Such a sweet story.
| Aug 20, 2013 |
I loved this book. Developing characters through letters isn't the easiest thing, and Kluger gives us three beauties. A young boy writes to a baseball player as he comes of age, and they form an unlikely friendship. All the more unlikely because the kid opens up by calling him "an ass hole."
I still can't write that as one word without thinking of this book. It's funny, touching, and an astonishingly quick read that you won't want to end.
| Mar 14, 2013 |
The Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants. But Joey's chosen champion doesn't exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent young fan with an overactive imagination. Then again, this strange, needy kid might be exactly what Banks needs
What the summary doesn't mention is the unique writing style where the narrative is depicted through the use of letters: letters from Joey to Charlie Banks, his letters in return, the principal's letters to Joey's mother, the rabbi's letters to Charlie Banks, etc. This structure added to the humor and compassion that make this an enjoyable read. This is also a great portrait of Brooklyn in a time when baseball dominated the minds and hearts of city.
| Jul 26, 2012 |
Joey, a twelve year old Jewish boy is beaten up for (falsely) claiming to be the friend of famous baseball player Charles Banks, so in attempt to prove his case he writes a pleading letter to the baseball player, and not just one. What follows is a correspondence in which Joey adds lie upon lie, and in which Charles repeatedly tells him where to get off. But gradually the tone of the communications changes, and what develops is a close and charming relationship.
The story is told entirely through the letters between Joey and Charles, along with other letters from Joey's best friend and a others, transcripts of interviews between Joey and his doctor, and clips from newspapers and other printed ephemera.
I put off reading this book for some time for the page presentation is a bit brash, and I must admit when I did start reading it I found it a little dispassionate, but not for long. Very soon one warms to Joey, a loud-mouth? possibly; precocious? definitely; resourceful and inventive? most certainly; but behind it all is a heart of gold. This is born out by the effect he has on the young baseball player, gradually bringing his otherwise hidden good heartedness and turning Charles into the father Joey lacked, and a true hero.
The Last Days of Summer is a remarkable book, sentimental and moving, extremely funny and yet heartbreaking, once I got going with I could not put it down and read it in just one sitting. A most original book, and one of the funniest I have read in a long time.
| Apr 24, 2012 |
It is 1940 and Joey Margolis is a precocious 12 year-old living in Brooklyn with his mother and his aunt, where he serves as a punching bag for the other kids in the neighborhood. Abandoned by his father, he is desperately in need of a strong male presence in his life. Improbably, Joey starts an on-going exchange of letters with Charlie Banks, the star third baseman for the New York Giants. Those letters will ultimately change and enrich both their lives.
Last Days of Summer
is basically an epistolary novel that chronicles the extent of that correspondence, interspersed with news clippings of the myriad events from that memorable time. This is a highly satisfying book that is at once charming, funny, and deeply affecting. The narrative itself, which uses baseball as a backdrop to a considerable extent, is really better viewed as a coming-of-age story. It is also a highly implausible tale, but the characters are so well drawn and appealing that it is easy to overlook that fact when you are reading it. I enjoyed this novel quite a bit and was more than a little sorry to see it end.
| Jul 27, 2011 |
Written as though you are flipping through 12 year old Joey's scrapbook, this novel is brilliantly delivered primarily as a series of letters between Joey, a 12 year old Jewish kid with a deadbeat dad, who is growing up in a tough Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn circa 1941, and his favorite baseball player, Charlie Banks, the rookie third baseman for the New York Giants. LOL funny at times, poignant when Charlie enlists after Pearl Harbor, and a tearjerker at the end, I absolutely loved this book. It's a fun baseball story, and a heartfelt growing up story for both the kid and the adult.
| Apr 24, 2011 |
Told entirely in letters, notes, and news clippings, Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis and Charlie Banks. In 1941, 12 year old Joey is a Jewish kid living in a part of Brooklyn where Jewish kids, particularly ones with mouths as big as Joey's, aren't treated too well. Charlie Banks is the hot-headed up and coming third baseman for the New York Giants, and he'd just as soon slug a guy for calling him a name on the basepaths as he would hit a long ball over the wall.
Joey is a smart-alecky kid with uncanny persistence and a knack for writing letters to famous people that actually elicit replies, like his correspondence with President Roosevelt and his staff, for example. It's no shocker, then, that when Joey figures that Charlie Banks might well be the solution to his problem with the neighborhood bullies, Charlie hardly has a chance of resisting. Soon the two are sniping back at each other in letters. It's not long, though, until their real struggles start to work their way into the letters even if they are buried in snark, fibs, and tough guy-isms. Soon, Charlie is proving himself a worthy stand-in for Joey's father, a philandering factory owner with no time for anybody but himself and his new wife, and Joey is calling his hot-tempered hero out on his unsportsmanlike conduct.
Last Days of Summer is, perhaps, a profoundly implausible story, but that small fact never crosses your mind while you're reading it. Kluger gives each of his two main characters such vivid, believable voices that you can't help coming to care about each of them quickly. Only using letters, Kluger fleshes out an entire cast of characters that include Charlie's lounge singer girlfriend, Hazel MacKay, arch enemy of Ethel Merman; Joey's mother and his aunt, a Jewish stereotype of sorts who's always saying that if things go wrong "let it be on your head;" Joey's upstairs neighbor Craig Nakamura, his partner in entrepreneurial pursuits and tracking the movements of old Mrs. Aubaugh the "German spy" with the wooden leg; Charlie's teammate Stuke, famous for making the first unassisted triple play in 21 years; not to mention Joey's Rabbi, a patient if humorless man who gets more than he bargained for when the distinctly un-Jewish Charlie steps in for Joey's dad at Joey's Bar Mitzvah.
Given all this, it's not surprising that Last Days of Summer is laugh out loud hilarious to the point that you might embarrass yourself while giggling away during lunch break while you're at a table by yourself. What is surprising, though, is the way these characters work their way into your heart while you're busy trying not to laugh too loudly in public, how the story can be heartwarming without ever crossing the line into cheesy, and how, even when you guess the ending coming from a hundred pages off, it still takes you by surprise and makes you cry like a baby. I absolutely loved this story of a pair of unlikely buddies who needed each other more than they could have guessed and of two boys who ultimately teach each other how to be men.
| Dec 29, 2010 |
I loved this book. I loved the format, I loved the fact that it was about baseball, and I loved the dynamic between the two main characters. This one will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you laugh so hard that you WILL cry. I'm off to add more Steve Kluger titles to my wishlist!
| Oct 8, 2010 |
One of my favorite books, reading The Last Days of Summer for the second time it did not disappoint. The book is an epistolary novel and follows the relationship between Charlie Banks 3rd baseman for the NY Giants and Joseph Margolis, a 12 year old kid without a father who is the target of neighborhood bullies. The book is funny, charming and sad and leaves you with the wish that Charlie Banks was real.
| Apr 20, 2010 |
Gotta love Joey Margolis. He writes letters to his baseball heroes, spouting atrocious lies in a desperate attempt to go on the road with these guys. And somehow it works for him.In a totally different way than Crossed Wires, this is a nice summer read.
| Jan 29, 2010 |
Kluger evokes emotion within the pages of Last Days of Summer. The story is humorous, but also poignant. It is an emotional telling of life during 1940s Brooklyn, when young Joey, a Jewish boy, was searching for a father figure. It is his coming of age story, yet it is so much more than that. Kluger depicts the evolving of a deep and lasting friendship, and portrays characters that are realistic. Although Joey’s strong-willed actions at times seem a bit over the edge, one can envision those actions occurring.
I highly recommend it to those who love baseball, and to those who like books based during the time period of 1940s Brooklyn.
| Aug 16, 2009 |
This isn't the deepest work of art or in any way an accurate description of historic events, but it is very, very funny. The mix of letters and report cards and newspaper clippings, etc. is very cleverly done and the juxtaposition of some story-lines will make you laugh out loud. A lot. As long as you're not expecting a Pulitzer-type novel, I'd recommend this as a great summer read. It does get a bit maudlin at times and the celebrity bits are sometimes a bit too fantastic, but that's easily outweighed by the various letter exchanges between completely unlikely characters - Charlie getting Bar Mitzvah lessons from "Rabby" Lieberman is a definite highlight!
| Jul 28, 2009 |
How much did I love this book? Enough to BUY six copies as gifts for friends, relatives, and friends of friends. I can't think of any age or gender that wouldn't love this book. It's funny, earnest, poignant and sweet. I love this book so much I might read it again. It's a quick read and made me nostalgic for the childhood I never had....
| Jul 9, 2009 |
It’s 1940 and twelve-year-old Joey Margolis is the only Jewish kid in his Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn. His father is checked out, absorbed in his relationship with his new wife, his mother and his Aunt Carrie are stereotypically overprotective Jewish women, and he has no one to stick up for him when he gets beaten up by the Italian kids in the neighborhood. With no one to look up to at home, Joey decides to look elsewhere. He sets his sights on New York Giants third baseman Charlie Banks.
This book is written as a series of letters between Joey and Charlie from 1940 to 1942, but it's not just letter. I’m tempted to refer to it as multi-media because it also includes Joey’s letters to President Roosevelt (and his responses!), notes from the therapy sessions Joey receives after he’s sent to Juvie for peeing in the reservoir, report cards from Joey’s school (where he receives all As except in “obedience,” in which his grades decline until his teacher exasperatedly marks the category “N/A”), love notes between Joey and a girl named Rachel, telegrams from many of the supporting characters, and even official military documents. All of these pieces fill in the gaps between Joey and Charlie’s letters and allow readers to see a more complete picture of their relationship than we would get from a traditional narrative.
This book is funny, unexpectedly touching, and a quick, fun, perfect summer read.
Read my full review at
The Book Lady's Blog.
| Jun 17, 2009 |
Very funny and touching. I thoroughly enjoyed this hidden gem.
| Mar 31, 2009 |
Brooklyn, New York is where 12-year-old Joey Margolis, a precocious Jewish boy, is coming-of-age during the early 1940s. His love of baseball prompts him to write to Charlie Banks, the 3rd baseman of the New York Giants and asks him to "hit one out for him". This event is the beginning of their relationship.
WOW! Why isn't this book a bestseller? It was fantastic. Last Days of Summer is overflowing with something for everybody. The story is told in letters, newspaper articles, telegrams, report cards, etc. It contains an endearing story line, historical events, baseball, religion, Hollywood stars, politics, delightful characters, humor, and more! At one point, I laughed until I cried. I can't remember the last time that happened when reading a book. After witnessing that uncontrolled laughing fit, my husband eagerly said, "Hurry up and finish that, so I can read it." It was a pure joy.
Whether it was purposeful of not, the beginning kept me wondering what was true and what wasn't; therefore, it gets docked a quarter of a point. Even so, it's a top-notch, poignant novel. Now I'm on a quest to find other work by Kluger. (4.75/5)
Originally posted on:
"Thoughts of Joy..."
| Mar 15, 2009 |
I loved this book. It was an incredibly easy read, but the story line was great, even though it has been done time and again. The characters were likable and fun, i found myself not wanting to put the book down.... I just wanted to see what Joey would do or say next! I would reccomend this book to anyone and everyone.
| Nov 6, 2008 |
I don't like sports. I don't really understand sports. In fact, if sports were my last hope for survival on a wasting planet, I would have to just give up and die with the rest of the athletically-challenged population. So why I picked up a book centered around baseball (in my opinion the second-most boring sport to golf) is beyond me, but it turned out to be a pretty good purchase.
It's not a new concept - fatherless, smart-aleck boy gains begrudging mentor who changes his life forever - but the characters are fresh and relatable. Joey Margolis is a mouthy Jewish kid growing up in Brooklyn. After one too many beatings from the neighborhood bullies, he claims NY Giants' 3rd baseman Charles Banks is his best friend. When he's pressured for proof, Joey writes to Banks to request a home run, starting a flurry of funny, emotionally authentic letters. The letter exchange - peppered by miscellaneous newspaper articles, report cards and psychiatrist's transcripts - continues over a period of seven years, chronicling Joey and Banks' tumultuous but fiercely devoted friendship. The unlikely pair crack jokes, poke fun, threaten, boss, cajole, confide, advise and offer support to one another as the two face extended tours, Bar Mitzvahs, first girlfriends, last girlfriends and absentee fathers.
It is not only Joey's coming of age that is revealed in their notes, but Banks' too. Yeah, there's some baseball talk, but although the sport is what brings the characters together, it's still secondary to the sincere, funny, totally believable relationship between a boy and his reluctant hero.
| Aug 20, 2008 |
I thoroughly enjoyed these memorable characters. It felt familiar because so much has been done before...the orphan looking for a father, the crusty ballplayer melting in the hands of a needy child, tales of world war II, Brooklyn's fascination with baseball. Yet somehow, Kluger made it feel fresh. The writing style has been done before but not as well.
| Jul 26, 2008 |
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