3 reviews

The Summer Guest
by Justin Cronin

Published: 2005-05-31
Paperback : 369 pages
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Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for his radiant novel in stories, Mary and O’Neil, Justin Cronin has already been hailed as a writer of astonishing gifts. Now Cronin’s new novel, The Summer Guest, fulfills that promise—and more. With a rare combination of emotional insight, ...
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Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for his radiant novel in stories, Mary and O’Neil, Justin Cronin has already been hailed as a writer of astonishing gifts. Now Cronin’s new novel, The Summer Guest, fulfills that promise—and more. With a rare combination of emotional insight, narrative power, and lyrical grace, Cronin transforms the simple story of a dying man’s last wish into a rich tapestry of family love.

On an evening in late summer, the great financier Harry Wainwright, nearing the end of his life, arrives at a rustic fishing camp in a remote area of Maine. He comes bearing two things: his wish for a day of fishing in a place that has brought him solace for thirty years, and an astonishing bequest that will forever change the lives of those around him.

From the battlefields of Italy to the turbulence of the Vietnam era, to the private battles of love and family, The Summer Guest reveals the full history of this final pilgrimage and its meaning for four people: Jordan Patterson, the haunted young man who will guide Harry on his last voyage out; the camp’s owner Joe Crosby, a Vietnam draft evader who has spent a lifetime “trying to learn what it means to be brave”; Joe’s wife, Lucy, the woman Harry has loved for three decades; and Joe and Lucy’s daughter Kate—the spirited young woman who holds the key to the last unopened door to the past.

As their stories unfold, secrets are revealed, courage is tested, and the bonds of love are strengthened. And always center stage is the place itself—a magical, forgotten corner of New England where the longings of the human heart are mirrored in the wild beauty of the landscape.

Intimate, powerful, and profound, The Summer Guest reveals Justin Cronin as a storyteller of unique and marvelous talent. It is a book to treasure.

Editorial Review

Set primarily in a rustic fishing camp on the northern tip of Maine, the first 50 pages of Justin Cronin's The Summer Guest read like a lazy fishing expedition--most of the time is simply spent waiting for something to happen. Thankfully, this expansive family saga goes on to explore countless intriguing topics, including love, war, disease, loss, betrayal, and redemption. The book revolves around the story of Harry Wainwright, a wealthy entrepreneur who falls in love with the camp as a young man and returns decades later for one last day of fishing before he succumbs to terminal cancer. With Harry as a centerpiece, Cronin artfully weaves the tales of Joe and Lucy Crosby, the camp's owners; their daughter Kate; and Jordan, the camp's guide; into a complex web of family drama. Using history as both a backdrop and a main character, Cronin guides readers from World War II to Vietnam, with the story reaching its climax on a late summer day in 1994.

The beauty of The Summer Guest lies in Cronin's ability to create meaning in each character's situation. Whether dodging the draft on a fishing boat in rural Canada, serving up clams by the Boston Harbor, saying goodbye to a loved one, or finding new love where you were once afraid to look, Cronin creates deep, sincere characters with whom readers feel a powerful sense of investment. ("Here is grief, I thought, here is grief at last: the full measure and heft of it... I watched myself enter it as if I were stepping into a pool of the calmest, darkest waters... a feeling like happiness, everything drifting away…") This ability to make what at first may seem like a quiet day of fishing seem extraordinary is what sets Cronin apart from other novelists, and what makes a story of the everyday business of living, loving and dying seem somewhat extraordinary. --Gisele Toueg


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  "Variety of narrators keep it fresh"by Carol A. (see profile) 12/02/17

The changing narrators allow the reader to get a full perspective on the plot. Many parallel characters/foils for readers to use to see all sides of story. The book club members liked this book a lot... (read more)

  "Very Different Than The Passage"by Celia J. (see profile) 07/24/12

I had low expectations for this book, because I didn't like The Passage. This book could not have been more different, and turned out to be one of my favorites so far. I was most impressed by the ending,... (read more)

  "The Summer Guest"by CA M. (see profile) 09/22/10

So much to talk about! Telling "white lies", keeping secrets; assisted suicide; "snowbirds"; wealth; authors' attitude towards life; DNR; bravery; conscientious objectors; the gov't's insufficient support... (read more)

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