When Julia Bechtel decides to take a vacation to spend a few weeks with her Aunt Zoe and take a photography class on the island of Big Sawyer, just off the coast of Maine, she has no idea that a simple two-week getaway will endanger her very life.
As she travels to the island on a ferry, a tragic accident claims several lives and traumatizes wife and mother Julia, lobsterman Noah Prine and twenty-one year old Kimmie Colella, forcing them to examine their lives and the reasons why they, and not the others, were spared from death.
Julia, Noah and Kimmie each handle their trauma in different ways. While Noah is dealing with the loss of his father in the accident and seeking to strengthen ties with his estranged teenage son, Kimmie opts to recoil from any and all communication. The accident has left her mute and isolated from her family and friends, as well as her fellow survivors.
Julia finds herself examining her life and relationships and asking herself for the first time in her forty years exactly what's in it for her. Up to this point she has been dutiful and obedient, a good wife, daughter and mother who is always concerned first with the welfare of others. The accident brings about a transformation in her that is extremely disconcerting to her family members but gratifying to readers, who find themselves rooting for her independence as she begins to show more backbone and self-preservation.
Before long, Julia is confronting family secrets from long ago, standing up to her daughter and her mother, and examining a relationship with her husband that has been less than satisfying for years. She is also getting to know her father and her aunt in new ways.
As Julia and Noah explore the growing attraction between them, they're also exploring a couple of outsiders to the area and their possible connection to what may or may not have been an accident. The mystery of these strangers in town, the tension between Noah and Julia, and Julia's evolving relationships with her loved ones, all make for good reading.
THE SUMMER I DARED is an enriching novel of one woman's search for herself when that self has been submerged in caring for others during her entire adult life, a concept that many women will be able to relate to. It's easy to find yourself drawn into the story and rooting for Julia to find happiness and freedom from the oppression of her family and their expectations.
Barbara Delinsky has penned over seventy novels since writing and selling her first in 1980. She hails from a Boston, Massachusetts suburb, and her love of the northeast is evident as several of her books are set in those states. Also apparent in her writing is her training in Psychology and Sociology, in which she holds a B.A. and an M.A., respectively. Delinsky is able to examine the complicated relationships between others in an easy and effortless way that draws her readers in and makes them care about her cast of characters.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on January 23, 2011
The Summer I Dared