” Every time she heard Caitlin’s voice she felt an ache, a longing for something, she didn’t know what. Even though it was almost a relief to be on her own with no one looking over her shoulder, no one questioning her every move, she missed her. To Vix she was still Caitlin Somers, the Most Influential Person in My Life. (Part 3, Ch.26, p.224)
Spanning two decades from 1977 to 1996, Summer Sisters, hybrid of coming-of-age and chick-lit, is a story that concerns rather implausibly a friendship begun when Caitlin and Vix (for Victoria) are 12—and apart from the age they have next to nothing in common. Beautiful, sharp-tongued, and cosseted by her eccentric, old-money family, Caitlin is the cool girl that every girl yearns to be. Vix Leonard, a native of New Mexico who has never seen the ocean, is as shy as Caitlin is outgoing. Their social difference is what makes this book intriguing cover to cover.
Caitlin was the magnet. She was just a particle in her magnetic field. (Part 5, Ch.42, p.359)
Vix is the eldest of a working-class family. She desperately loves her young brother, Nathan, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, and tries against all odds to survive in an emotionally and financially troubled family. When Caitlin invites Vix to be her house guest on Martha’s Vineyard in summer 1977, and in what will turn out to be the first of six shared summers, Vix is overwhelmed and thrilled. She is thrilled to be free of the responsibilities her mother shoulders upon her; excited to explore a world of novelties of which she would otherwise be deprived.
Caitlin isn’t someone to get over. She’s someone to come to terms with, the way you have to come to terms with your parents, your siblings. You can’t deny they ever happened. You can’t deny you ever loved them, love them still, even if loving them causes you pain. (Part 5, Ch.42, p.347)
Summer Sisters deftly captures the ever changing dynamics of an uneven, unlikely friendship that evolves over time, as the pair sets out on the road to adolescence and adulthood. As is the case for minors, Caitlin and Vix go through the rebellious and curious stages, making choices that will mold them to be drastically different women. Together they discover the novelty of puberty and sexual allure. Caitlin brazenly rebels against her stepmother, Abby, who contrives to win her affection. Vix is the private, nerdy girl who manages to outshine her friend in school. Abby considers Vix a person of values and ethics, a daughter she always wants to have. As she takes personal interest in Vix and arranges for her scholarship to private school and eventually supports her Harvard education, Vix and Caitlin slowly grows apart.
Summer Sisters explores friendship and the many ways friendship can grow and at the same time hurt. There are fond memories from the childhood and casual betrayals. It also explores the meaning of family and family ties. Abby and Lamb treat Vix as their own daughter, but Vix secretly feels guilty about the summers she was gone—away from her little brother. The book is highly readable and keeps me interested to the very end, even though it’s quite shocking. It’s full of awakening and reminiscence.
399 pp. Dell. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]