Review

The Last Summer (of You & Me)

by Ann Brashares

Sisters Alice and Riley have always spent summers in a
close-knit community on New York's Fire Island. Next to their ugly,
cozy little house, Paul summers in his mansion with a different
housekeeper every year. The three have formed a family over the
years throughout their childhood and adolescence.


Now, as young adults, they are together once again as Paul returns
to the island after an absence of several years. Alice, who has
always loved him wholeheartedly, continues to adore him. And Paul
is uncomfortably aware of his burgeoning feelings toward Alice.
Both are sensitive to the fact that, if the two of them began a
romantic relationship, tomboy Riley would be left out in the cold.
Riley, more skilled at childhood talents, lacks many of the arts of
adult socialization yet is far from stupid --- and she realizes
there are strong hidden feelings between her younger sister and
quasi-brother.


Meanwhile, as Alice and Paul perform an ornate "tiny step forward,
large step backward" courtship dance, Riley uncharacteristically
falls ill. Paul's manipulative and cold mother, Lia, adds to the
tension by arriving unexpectedly, packing along her usual burden of
unhappiness and tainting Paul's pleasure at being back on the
island with Alice and Riley. But Lia is not the only outside force
to disturb a relationship already torn asunder by internal
issues.


While Paul struggles with feelings that adult intimacy with the
girl who was so close to being his sister would be wrong, Alice
remains clear that it is the one and only romantic relationship she
has ever wanted. Paul moves close to her, then backs away while
Alice is ripped apart by frustration and despair. He wonders if
taking that final step will tear him into tiny pieces or make him
whole; she wonders if he might come as close to her as possible
only to back away and break her heart.


And, aside from all this, there is Riley. How does she fit in this
strange new world? An inevitable-seeming yet alarming plot twist
finally trumps the many tribulations and joys of Paul and Alice's
relationship, as the characters learn yet again that heartbreak
comes in many forms.


I was quickly drawn into this leisurely paced, subtle tale of
intertwining relationships, a fascinating study of divided
loyalties, secrets, guilt, self-punishment and desperate, yearning
love. Although Paul's family feels less well developed (his mother
seems a bit like a cartoon character), Alice and Riley's family
members, with their imperfect yet loving personalities and
relationships, feel real and sympathetic. In addition, Ann
Brashares's love letter to island life sets a haunting, nostalgic
atmosphere, making THE LAST SUMMER (OF YOU & ME) a perfect
summer read.


  











Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (terryms2001@yahoo.com) on December 30, 2010

The Last Summer (of You & Me)
by Ann Brashares

  • Publication Date: May 6, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade
  • ISBN-10: 1594483086
  • ISBN-13: 9781594483080