Review

Summer Reading

by Hilma Wolitzer

Lissy is a young stepmother who is having trouble with her
"new" kids. In order to get in good with the social scene in her
Hamptons neighborhood, she enlists Angela Graves, the local
bookworm, to front a group of weekly readers called The Page
Turners. Lissy employs a young woman named Michelle, a local, as
her housekeeper. Michelle doesn't cotton to the summer people and
is distressed by the lack of commitment she finds with her older
fisherman boyfriend. Their summer travails, their search for love
and commitment, and their attempts to ditch their never-perfect
pasts make up the story of SUMMER READING, Hilma Wolitzer's latest
novel.

The women in this book all feel trapped by lives they have chosen,
from which they cannot extricate themselves no matter how hard they
try. Lissy loves her overworked husband Jeffrey (not to mention his
money), but she isn't fond of his attachment to his ex and two
young children. Although she tries to juggle their needs with her
own, it's a fight she often loses. Her fascination with one wealthy
denizen, her rich cuckold of a husband and the restauranteur with
whom she is supposed to be having an affair turns dangerous when it
inspires Lissy's own steps towards infidelity with a children's
party clown (yes, I'm serious). Angela can't forget the man whose
marriage she destroyed in an academic enclave in Texas so long ago.
But when she spots the daughter of this union in New York City, she
works hard to enter back into their lives, only to make some fetid
discoveries.

Michelle --- dog lover, housecleaner, oppressed daughter and
sort-of stepmother --- wants Hank to marry her but finds, as time
goes on, that maybe the perfect relationship she's always imagined
isn't really within her grasp (perhaps because it doesn't exist?).
Several fiction books, a murder and the deaths of a beloved dog and
a former lover bring all these women to forks in the road --- but
do any of them really change for the good with this
knowledge?

Wolitzer's breezy, smart tone is a joy to read, but somewhere I
lost interest in Lissy's selfish needs and her inability to help
others, Michelle's desire for the rank Hank --- a seemingly boorish
guy who doesn't deserve her --- and Angela's need to dredge up the
past in order to survive her lonely present. The author paints
three-dimensional ladies with some very human desires and problems,
but I was hoping for a little more surprise as their inner lives
evolved. Nonetheless, SUMMER READING earns its title and should be
a welcome addition to your beach bag.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 23, 2011

Summer Reading
by Hilma Wolitzer

  • Publication Date: May 20, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345485874
  • ISBN-13: 9780345485878