THE SUMMER GUEST
Justin Cronin, Author . Dial $24 (369p) ISBN 978-0-385-33581-2
A Maine fishing camp serves as the physical and emotional center for an extended circle of family and friends in this charming novel spanning three generations. On a single day in late summer, the rich financier Harry Wainwright, now dying of cancer, visits the camp he has frequented for more than 30 years. His visit prompts a flood of memories for each of the characters: Joe, who inherited the camp from his father but spent years away when his father convinced him to evade the Vietnam draft; Lucy, Joe's wife, whose love for her husband and the camp is intertwined with her love for Harry; Jordan, a young fishing guide who finds solace and purpose at the camp; and Lucy's daughter, Kate, an aspiring medical student whose presence links all of the characters. Each character tells a portion of their back-story in alternating chapters, and as the events of the day progress, the reader begins to understand the sources of the complex tension underlying each relationship. Chronologically, the story begins with the arrival of Joe's father to the camp just after World War II, and the whole novel has something of a 1940s feel about it: the bedrock realities of family and place remain constant in spite of the vicissitudes of emotions and events, and the voices of these Mainers have a lovely calm that evokes the timeless summer place. Though the pieces of the story fit almost too neatly and everyone ends up exactly where they should, the novel's recognition of human frailty and nobility rings true, as does its faithful recreation of a place outside the storms of history.
Reviewed on: 05/10/2004