Book Reviews ⓣⓗⓡⓔⓔ: The Summer of Letting Go
by The Dreamer
It has been approximately fifteen minutes after I have heaved a sigh and reluctantly closed the book. Finding this picture and seeing the ocean made my breath catch. This book takes place in this ocean, and will sweep you away with waves of emotions of various heights – first intrigue, then sadness, then overwhelming grief, and finally closure.
Poignant, beautiful and true – Gae Polisner awes me with yet another masterpiece. I cried an ocean reading this book. The Summer of Letting Go will fill you with tears and hope and it is almost impossible to put down.
Four years ago, Francesca Schnell’s younger brother drowns in the ocean under her watch. Four years later, Frankie deals with her family crumbling apart over Simon’s death – her mother’s silence and crazed obsession with her Drowning foundation and the possibility of her father having an affair with the pretty neighbour. Not only that, summer is made even more unbearable when Frankie faces conflicting feelings about her best friend’s boyfriend – who keeps giving her mixed signals. But most importantly, she finds herself babysitting a young boy – coincidentally called Frankie too – that has an striking resemblence to Simon, and leads Frankie to believe that perhaps, just maybe, Frankie could be Simon’s reincarnation.
Pardon if there are any spelling mistakes. My eyes are pretty swollen, it’s late in the night and there are still tears swimming around, threatening to spill.
Gae Polisner is an awesome author, and it’s not just because of her beautiful works. I remember two years ago, after reading The Pull of Gravity, I enthusiastically posted a raving over it’s awesomeness, and she did the sweetest thing ever:
She replied to my review! Now that I reflect, my review did look very childish and wow, so insightful. There’s a certain happiness in receiving recognition and feeling a connection to someone who made you cry and laugh and gave you an escape for a few hours – it’s definitely a feeling that I cannot explain. But afterward, I decided that Gae Polisner would be one of my favourite authors ever.
When I knew of this new book, I jumped at the chance to borrow it.
I have always believed in reincarnation. I’m a free-thinker at the moment, but I have always leaned towards the Buddhism side more than the Christian and Catholic side that I have been inculcated to. Buddhism does believe in reincarnation, that’s why my dad always tells us to try not to “take lives” or in Chinese, it is known as “杀生”. Buddha also believes that even the little bacteria, and molecules in water, should be appreciated for their existence and that we should always repent for “killing” them. Meh. I don’t know – somewhere along that lines, and perhaps this is the more extreme saying.
But I do strongly accept the whole reincarnation concept. Every seventh month of the lunar calender, also known in Chinese culture as Ghost Festival, a white moth never fails to appear resting on the walls of my home. My father once told me, that there was a great possibility that it could have been my great grandmother. Her dying wish was to be reborn as a white butterfly or moth. On the day of her funeral, everyone remembered seeing this giant white moth land on the casket, just staying there, quietly, and it stayed from morning till night. The white was the baffling, blinding kind, my father recalled. The kind of white you see in a cleansed and peaceful soul.
I have always found that story to be beautiful.
Therefore, this story pulled me in immediately. Character development has obviously played a great part. Frankie was portrayed as very authentic and imperfect – she struggles to find the balance in breaking out of adolescence and being forced to mature beyond her age because of her brother’s death that she finds responsibility in. Frankie Sky, on the other hand, was a complete delight to read. He was fun, and adorable, and struck a chord in my heart because of how he resembled my younger cousins.
I also liked how there were subtle hints that many people were actually supporting and rooting for Frankie along the way, she probably just doesn’t realize, or she does, I dunno. Desperation and grief has swallowed her whole and crippled the way she basically functions whenever she thinks of Simon. Yet, along the way, Gae Polisner plants characters – Lisette (a best friend that proved to be not only beautiful on the outside but on the inside as well), Brooke (Frankie Sky’s mother that highlighted to Frankie that people can be broken but still beautiful), and surprisingly she finds solace in pouring her soul to Mrs. Merrill, her neighbour,whom she suspects is having an affair with her father.
I enjoyed how the characters were pretty true to themselves. Brooke, despite struggling with depression and hiding from a facade of happiness, gradually opens up to Frankie on finding new romance (and new purpose) in life and getting over the grief of her husband’s death. She really showed to Frankie that it is okay to move on with life – that’s the whole purpose of it. Don’t stay in one chapter. Move on. Start a new one. And when Frankie realizes she can do that, that she can release herself from the claws of remorse from the past that has suffocated her, she finds as if a burden has been lifted off her. And there’s Mrs. Merrill – till the end she doesn’t deny of her relationship with her father, but she is brave enough to face up to it when Frankie reveals it out like a sore wound and she also opens up to Frankie – a kid, and seeks acceptance from her.
Bradley is cute – but I find it amazing that this time, I was more interested in the development of the Frankie-Simon riddle more than the boy-hotness factor and the romance. He has definitely swayed Frankie, but I like how eventually, through all the bumps and bruises, they find the correct path to each other. But it is good that the romance is not the main point in the story, and getting over the grief and guilt is the main highlight, and Gae Polisner strikes a good balance between the two and makes sure none of these two plots overshadow one another. But really, Frankie, does crab talk turn you on?
The symbolisms of reincarnation – and how Gae Polisner effortlessly links them together, really acts as a polish to this gem. It makes this book shine even brighter. The pelican, the sparklers, Frankie’s hole in his heart and his uncanny affinity with water, the sand dollar. I savored and slowly analyzed every single one with detail.
My favourites has to be her mother’s letter (it made my neck sticky with tears, which kind of shows the wreck that I was), the whole paragraph where Frankie insists that the water for the moat will be absorbed by the sand, but Frankie Sky believes that the moat can be created, and alas, he proves Frankie wrong, and the moat fills – giving Frankie a whole new revelation and filling her with hope. “Is magic, right?” Frankie Sky says, and even I agree.
I read this very insightful review, and I shall quote this sentence that I find sums up this entire book:
Some paths to adulthood starts with seeing them as mortal and imperfect as you are,Frankie is on that one.
I really, really thoroughly loved this book. It links to me on a spiritual level, and it’ll be on my favourites shelves.