cover image Summer Light

Summer Light

Roxana Robinson. Viking Books, $16.95 (200pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82248-5

The satisfactions of Robinson's first novel are many: her fluid prose and graceful construction; her sure sense of character and place; her skill in depicting the texture of daily life as well as the turning points in relationships; and her sympathetic understanding of the stresses within a family. Laura is almost 30, and ``treading water.'' Not quite divorced from her chronically unfaithful, immature husband Nat, she is living with but unable to commit to her lover Ward, terrified of failing her four-year-old son Sam, and equally afraid of being a failure as a photographer. Laura, Ward and Sam are spending the summer in Northeast Harbour, Maine, sharing a house with her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Richie (Laura's first love) and their two adolescent daughters. Long since convinced that she is ``worthless,'' a consequence of her rebellion against her stern, moralizing Quaker parents, Laura makes excuses for her inability to decide her future. When she allows Nat to fly up one weekend to see Sam, she unwittingly precipitates a crisis in her relationship with Ward, but her anguish leads to insights and she finally sees her own behavior patterns clearly and begins to free herself from crippling inertia. In compact but elegant prose that conveys the essence of somnolent summer days by the sea, Robinson moves her narrative to a moment of near-tragedy, in which Laura's tentative choices become luminously clear. This book should plant Robinson squarely on the literary map. (June)