This week I finished Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos. Before I had surgery in February I stocked up on reading material. This was one of the books I purchased from a good old fashion, brick and mortar bookstore. I think I’ve been spoiled with my Book of the Month subscription because going to a store with thousands of options at my fingertips, and no real direction, was overwhelming. Overwhelming in an enjoyable, fun-way-to-spend-an-afternoon sort of way, but overwhelming the same. I always leave the book store with a bag of books and a nagging feeling that I missed something amazing. And who knows if I’ll find it next time. And who knows when next time will be. And who knows if it will still even be there because what if someone else buys my book. Now that you know the thoughts that plague me all night, let’s get to the book.
Summerlong is identified on the back cover as a sort of midlife crisis tale, which I was drawn to immediately because I tell myself that I’m getting to be “a lady of a certain age” all the time. Within the first few pages we meet all of our main characters, and it was. On the first page we meet Don Lowry taking a walk at his wife’s request, unable to call 911 when he debated doing so, “But he does not bring his phone on these walks; his wife has urged him not to — he works too much, he has chest pains at night, and his face is often lit by a screen — and so he cannot call anyone” (Bakopoulos 1). Claire is introduced a few pages later and I could picture her in the parents I run into at my kids’ school, every lady in yoga pants at the grocery store, all the moms walking around the gym aimlessly who are biding their time until they can buy their protein smoothie before heading home. “Claire is not a regular runner, but she is an occasional one, and when she wakes up from a dream that same Friday night in late May, she feels like running, wants to run until she loses her breath and sweat slicks her limbs,” she’s also reflected in the faces of ladies in their 30s across the country (7).
I liked the way the author mirrored the characters. We had the late 30s Lowrys involving themselves with Charlie and ABC who were over a decade younger. I know that I’ve changed over the years, and so has my husband, but what I enjoyed about this book was the way you could see the characters pitted against younger versions. Essentially they were falling in love with the carefree versions of who they really wanted to be, not the paunchy failures they had become in their own eyes. Towards the end I found book striking close to home, especially when they all attend the heat wave party. “Most of the women are in thin dresses, though a few are in bathing suits—bikini tops with wraps around their bottoms and some of the women follow ZeeZee’s lead and drop the sarongs and wraps and wear only swimsuits after a few drinks make them bold enough to do so. Nobody, thinks ABC, looks as good as she and Charlie look” and it is this kind of situation, where parents find themselves sitting around a body of water half clad, that I found myself in this past weekend for a July 4th celebration (277).
When I started this book I didn’t want to like it. I wanted to think that Bakopoulos was sensationalizing the state of things as one approaches midlife. I especially didn’t like the way he was portraying the private lives of the Lowrys and mundane nature of life. When it all hits the page though, I realize that life is kind of mundane. Not every day is a winner. Sometimes you just go to the grocery store. Sometimes you watch Netflix. Sometimes you go for a run, even though you are only a sometimes runner, and you decide to change the course of your marriage and life forever. This book ended up being unbelievable in some regards, but at the heart of it, the story is alarming and altered my point of view as I’ve gone from looking to “older” people for advice to realizing I am the older person!