Awakening of the Summer
by Yorker Keith

"Wildflowers and green grasses swayed peacefully with a gentle breeze, accompanied by twittering of birds."

“Take me, James, take me,” urges his new lover, days after they meet on a two-week summer vacation. Far from the frenzied realities of modern urban professional lives back in Manhattan, these weary millennials seek respite, love, and the brief peace of a rustic New Hampshire getaway. Kelly’s “take me” is spoken at the height of passion, and in the fast-shifting love triangle that soon develops between James, Kelly, and her sister Sophie, passions do run high and often. Yet Kelly’s urgent request suggests additional meanings. “Take me,” she says, as though asking James to remove her from the uncertainty of a troubled relationship with her boyfriend back home, from health challenges, from the pressures of career, inheritance, and her role as an heiress in an increasingly complex grown-up world. “Take me,” she pleads, as if willing James to choose her from within the web of romantic possibilities these characters weave around each other.

As they each vie for their place in summer love affairs, Kelly fluctuates between wanting James and wanting her sister to realize optimal happiness too. As her relationship goals shift, so too does her sense of self and her role in the life awaiting her back home. James and Sophie are likewise confronted by questions of identity and future. These earnest explorations of love exist in the suspended animation of a leisurely pastoral summer vacation. Here, James, a divorced Wall Street financier has time to erect an easel and paint the day away, unplugged from the digital bells and beeps that typically define and derail him. Sophie can lounge lazily with her volume of Emily Dickinson poems, while Kelly rides an iconic summer bicycle. No one snaps Instagram selfies or texts the gang back home.

Language plays a key role in the book’s sense of immersive summer. Slow, deliberate descriptions observe the beauty of nature. Dialogue likewise has a relaxed, timeless quality, allowing characters the time to ponder and speak. City slang is replaced with formal, full-sentence declarations and thoughtful orations that seem as if from another era. Far from city pressures, these young urbanites use words like “stroll” and “veranda” but rarely consult a smartphone or Google anything.

Yet over the winding bike path, just beyond the lake where James skinny dips with one of the sisters, this book’s skillfully drawn truth of vacation whispers its inescapable secret: Real life awaits. The city and its painful memories loom silently, as integral to the story’s scenery as the New Hampshire sunset. Sometimes, the book seems to suggest, a vacation from life provides the space and clarity to go back and live it better. For James, Sophie, and Kelly—young adults leaning into their futures—vacation gives them a view into different kinds of love, life, and possibilities. Their uncertainty, eagerness for love, and fear of bad choices are infinitely relatable, making their summer vacation unique for its details and universal for its arc. In the end, after a whirlwind of couplings, confessions, and candor, a summer vacation that started with “take me” ends, for some characters, with the invitation to “take me” home. As vacation souvenirs go, love is a pretty good takeaway.

Return to USR Home