Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Book Review: A SUMMER OF SUNDAYS

Title: A Summer of Sundays
Author: Lindsay Eland
Publisher: Egmont, USA









Most middle children will answer to the injustice imposed upon them by the cruelty of a birth order. Every milestone has already been clocked by their older sibling, and nothing they do can match the charm and inventiveness of their younger sibling.

Imagine then the plight of twelve-year-old Sunday Fowler, who is the middle child of six siblings. In spite of being intelligent, attractive, sensible and sensitive, Sunday suffers inattention from her parents. Her naughtier brothers and her older sisters are all remembered for their distinctive personalities.

Her parents have a tendency to remember her name only when they have a chore in mind for her. At all other times, she is referred to by one of her other two sisters’ names.

Growing up in a family that is so large that a dinner gong is required to summon everyone together for meals, Sunday longs to become more visible to her parents. Other than her younger brother, Bo, none of her other siblings, including two older sisters and two younger brothers care much for her.

One summer, her dad undertakes a project to remodel a library in the town of Alma, Pennsylvania, the home of Lee Wren, the famous author of modern-day classic, The Life and Death of Birds. Determined to do something that will earn her fame and a headline in the Alma Gazette, and most importantly, the regard of her parents, Sunday can’t quite make up her mind about what she should do? Should she save somebody’s life? Or foil a robbery attempt?

The necessity for coming up with a workable plan is heightened, when the family, driving down to Alma, forget Sunday behind at the gas station. When they return two hours later, it is because they had taken the wrong road. No one it seems has missed her for those two hours. It is a cruel reminder to Sunday that this summer is all she has to turn the spotlight firmly on herself.

In Alma, she meets an 11-year-old boy, Jude Zachariah Caleb Trist, who lives with his single mother and her boyfriend, who aspires to be Jude’s stepfather. Jude becomes the only friend Sunday has had, but, being the only son of an over-possessive single mother, even he thinks the world of her family.

Sunday finds the manuscript of a novel hidden in a box in the library. The box also contains some letters addressed to “The Librarian.” She decides to find the author of the manuscript, hoping that the discovery of the author’s identity will be the one thing she needs to fulfill her aim. Having eliminated other potential candidates, she settles on Ben Folger, the town recluse and one-time librarian, as the author of the manuscript. But she needs proof to support her claim.

Getting proof is not going to be easy, considering Ben’s reputation for locking little children up in his basement dungeon before eating them. Raw.

Sunday will do whatever it takes to get that proof, even if it means putting her life in danger and spending the night in a cemetery.

I found the character of Sunday most delightful. She reminded me of, well, ahem, (vigorous clearing of the throat) – me.

I too am a middle child. Of course, I am the middle of three children, not six, as poor Sunday had to contend with. But the trait that I could identify most with was the voraciousness with which she devours books. Like me, Sunday too reads books as fast as possible, quite as if there wasn’t enough time to read all the books she wants to.

Also, like me, she has a thing for libraries. As she says, “There wasn't a place I could think of that was more magical than a building bursting with books and stories and words...

The story is filled with characters who love books. Like the late Mr Bodnar who came over from Paris with his wife, his suitcase only containing books. No clothes or socks or even underwear. His logic? As he tells his wife, “I can replace these, but not my books.

There’s a reference to India too. Folger tells Sunday that India is his favourite place. “There’s a magic in India that you can’t really explain. The colours, the people, the beauty, the ugliness – all of it mixed together.” I thought that was a most apt description of India.

Eland has done a fantastic job of creating the characters. While Sunday comes across as sweet and precocious, even her brothers, especially the obsessed-with-poop-CJ, and her sisters, and others manage to stand out.

What I didn’t like about this book was that certain portions tended to drag on. About halfway through the book, it became evident whose manuscript it was. Why Sunday had to continue to investigate other potential candidates when the truth was staring her in the face was beyond me. Also, the end was not quite satisfying. Considering that Sunday was so close to betraying her friends, I felt that a little more drama was called for to make her struggles with herself, and her eventual resolution of her dilemma, appear believable.


Still, A Summer of Sundays is worth reading for the bitter-sweet that is every family, and for Sunday and her love for books. I’d recommend this book for middle school children.




I received a free Kindle book version of A Summer of Sundays from NetGalley in exchange for this fair review.




1 comment:

  1. I always love your reviews Cynthia . Unlike many people who just re paraphrase the blurb , you point out the places you loved and the places where you disagree :) Will be on the lookout for this book :)

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