That Last Summer
Susan M. Toy
Susan M. Toy captures the magic of the summer of ’65 in this tale of love and loss of innocence. The lake is alive with boys and girls, skiing and romancing. Rachel constantly spars with her younger sister, neither girl realizing the extent of life-changing problems that float below the surface for both a friend’s family and their own. Toy writes with confidence and elegance in That Last Summer and, as Juliet says in a famous scene performed around an August bonfire, “Parting is such sweet sorrow … ”
My Review: This is a wonderful coming-of-age story about the turbulence of the teenage years, young love, the complications of family relationships, and how life can change in an instant. Rachel is young woman who, like most teenagers, is very self-centered. She resents being stuck by the lake all summer with her family, when in her opinion, she should be spending time with her boyfriend, Sam. Rachel has a flair for the dramatic and fancies herself a victim of hatred from her mother. As the summer progresses, friendships are forged, secrets are revealed, and everything changes. Many summers will pass before Rachel truly discovers the truth about that summer and the value of that family vacation.
The author truly captures the magic of summer vacation and the multitude of joys and heartaches that can occur over such a short period of time. For a teenager, disappointments can seem like insurmountable setbacks and true love can be found and lost within days or weeks. Rachel, like most teens, feels emotions very strongly. She’s often on her worst behavior around her family, but can also show maturity. The adult perspective which is offered at the end of the story brings everything full circle and offers closure not only for Rachel, but for the reader as well.
I dare you to read this and not think about it for days after. I finished the story several days ago and it’s been on my mind ever since.