cover image Geographies of the Heart

Geographies of the Heart

Caitlin Hamilton Summie. Formite, $15 trade paper (314p) ISBN 978-1-953236-39-5

In Summie’s uneven debut novel (after the collection To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts) set in Minneapolis, the members of a family pursue meaning. At the center is Sarah MacMillan, who, as she prepares to graduate from college in the early 1990s, weighs her plans for the future. What she wants is a career in marketing, but instead she marries early and takes on the responsibility of caregiving for her grandparents. She becomes the self-appointed keeper of traditions, “hold[ing] family history like a whip,” and declares what others should be doing. By contrast, her sister, Glennie, a doctor, pursues her career at the risk of her relationships and health. Al, Sarah’s affable husband with “the heart of a puppy in the body of a bear,” whose humor and good grace adds solidity and charm to the story, takes up the role as mediator between the sisters. As the family contracts and expands with births and deaths, Sarah must decide if she can accept people for who they are, including herself. While the episodic narrative doesn’t have much in the way of momentum, Summie does a solid job of exploring the characters’ attempts to find their place in life. There’s not much of a story, but Summie writes with admirable nuance. (Jan.)