New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.
This was an interesting story from a "simpler time" that wasn't really quite as simple as it appeared. It was told from Frank's point of view as an adult looking back on a pivotal summer in his youth. It was a credible voice of a 13-year-old boy who just wants to hang out with his friends and his brother but is inevitably pulled into a string of unfortunate events that change his town and his family irrevocably. The writing is straightforward but descriptive, and the reader can feel the summertime heat even in the middle of winter. There are some twists in the plot that the author foreshadows with a light touch.
We had an interesting book club discussion, including the question of the many meanings of the title. Book #3 is next month's selection, so I'll wait to post about it until we've had that meeting.