cover image MY FATHER'S SUMMERS: A Daughter's Memoir

MY FATHER'S SUMMERS: A Daughter's Memoir

Kathi Appelt, . . Holt, $15.95 (197pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7362-1

This memoir told in brief chapters, often centered on a single image or event, reveals painful moments in Appelt's (Kissing Tennessee ) growing-up years in Texas in the 1960s, before and after her parents' divorce. But like the snapshots that accompany the text, the chapters offer glimpses into her family life but do not add up to a complete portrait. For example, while the author emphasizes that during the summers spent with their father and his new family, "it was a good time to have sisters, to have each other," she never delineates her two younger sisters' personalities. Because the narrative sometimes moves forward, other times flashes back, readers may find it difficult to get a beat on the narrator herself. Often the childlike voice gives way to an adult perspective, which can distance the audience from the events. The author ably demonstrates the trauma accompanying neighbors' gossip about her parents' marriage, the challenges her father faces as his second wife, an alcoholic, becomes violent towards herself and him and her mother's eventual growth and rebirth. But readers never witness young Kathi's anger toward her father when he abandons the family; the mother's emotions, as reported here, and the father's actions as someone suffering but unable to express his emotions, seem more realistic and therefore more sympathetic. The memoir considers universal themes of growing up including crushes, friendships and love in some thought-provoking moments, but ultimately readers may wish the vignettes were consistently compelling. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)