Just 18 Summers
Butch Browning was a loving family man and great provider, but didn’t have a clue about things like doing laundry, making dinner, or managing a home schedule. None of that mattered --- until Jenny died. Now he’s the single dad of a little girl who misses her mommy, and he finds himself facing all the challenges that come with that territory. Struggling to make it work, Butch turns to his friend and co-worker, Tippy, who’s facing challenges of his own as his wife, Daphne, obsesses over preparing for their first baby.
But Daphne isn’t the only one with anxiety. Beth and Larry are suddenly facing an empty nest, as their son heads to college and their daughter announces her engagement to a pizza delivery guy. Meanwhile, their neighbors Helen and Charles are diligently working to ensure their children are perfect and have every advantage, but those efforts appear to be falling flat. Four families, countless hopes and dreams, and just 18 summers to make them all come true.
"I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this character-based book, with its endearing relationships, reality-based dialogue and chapters written from the perspective of each character. I’ve read books where such a variety of perspectives get confusing, but somehow the authors make it work beautifully."
The school year has just ended, and all of our main characters are facing a summer of change. Each parent is realizing the children they love so dearly are growing, developing their own strengths and weaknesses, and writing their own stories. And each wonders if all their years of parenting have made the kind of positive impact that will place their children on a path of happiness and success. One by one, they succumb to doubts and fears, wondering if there were just too many mistakes and if there’s time to compensate.
For the mother-to-be, the coming summer holds the biggest change of all: the birth of the child she already loves beyond measure --- the child for whom everything must be perfect. She spends her time reading and surfing the Internet, soaking up every bit of parenting knowledge, absorbing medical and safety advice, and hounding her husband to do the same until her obsession begins to eat away at their marriage.
As the summer progresses, each parent winds up in the office of Dr. Reynolds, a family counselor. With the doctor’s solid voice of reason, they learn to handle parenthood and all its emotions and complications with grace, humor and patience.
In JUST 18 SUMMERS, authors Rene Gutteridge and Michelle Cox give us a unique premise with fresh perspectives on the age-old questions of when to hold on and when to let go, and how to do either when you’re not sure if anything you’re doing is right. They offer up a diversity of personalities, each with their unique set of flaws, insecurities and reflections. And yet, there is continuity, because woven through each family’s story are common denominators: the need to be loved by their children, and the desire to give them the brightest future possible.
I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this character-based book, with its endearing relationships, reality-based dialogue and chapters written from the perspective of each character. I’ve read books where such a variety of perspectives get confusing, but somehow the authors make it work beautifully. I think anyone who picks up a copy of JUST 18 SUMMERS will be happy they did, and will find themselves passing it along to fellow readers.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on April 27, 2014