by Cynthia Rylant
Interests: grieving, friendship
Dell Publishing: 1992
Summer’s mother died when she was very young, and she was passed between relatives for a while until her eccentric aunt May and uncle Ob took her to live with them in their broken-down trailer up in the mountains of West Virginia. As this novel opens many years later, May has died and both Summer and Ob are lost in their grief. Time passes but the sadness doesn’t, and Summer starts to worry about Ob, who seems to have given up on life. It takes an odd boy named Cletus to shake their lives up a little. It’s he who suggests what they should do – he’s read about a spiritual medium who might be able to contact May. The three embark on a road trip to visit the medium, only to find that she, too, passed away months ago. Despite this disappointment, somehow during the drive Ob manages to “turn that buggy around”, as Summer puts it. An impromptu visit to the state capitol building fills the kids with excitement and awe, and Ob seems to catch some of their enthusiasm. They return home ready to carry on with life and all it may bring.
This very slim volume is a quiet, thoughtful read; there are no big events, no big drama. It’s an affecting look at loss and grief that feels very real and relevant. It takes a close read to get the most out of this book – many readers may not have the patience for it. This is a story about our need for closure when a loved one dies, and the unexpected forms that closure can take.