Reviewed by Lori McAnnally
LORI MCANNALLY, an avid reader and writer, resides in Roanoke.
Combine a weak premise with flat characters and you’ve got Nancy Thayer’s latest offering.
“Summer on Dragonfly Lake,” reads the book jacket, “is ripe for romance, temptation, and self-discovery” as the lives of three women “unexpectedly intertwine.” If you think this description sounds like a novel you’d find on a rack in your local drugstore, you’re on the right track.
In “Summer Breeze,” schoolteacher Bella leaves her career in Austin and moves back to New England to tend her ailing mother’s shop. This premise wouldn’t be so hard to swallow if Bella’s mother was suffering from a serious disease, or even old age, but the woman has a broken leg. She’s also in her mid-50s and is married to a schoolteacher who is home for the summer.
The whole setup is improbable. Even more far-fetched is Bella’s decision to revamp her mother’s outdated store, spending countless hours remodeling and thousands of dollars purchasing inventory. How does Bella get the money required to finance such a project? The reader is left to guess. Bella’s actions become even more inexplicable in light of her soon-to-be fiance considering a job offer on the other side of the country.
The characters are mere stereotypes. Take the bored, stay-at-home mother, for instance. Morgan is a career woman frustrated by the supposed intellectual stagnation of raising children.
The author, however, appears not to have any idea of what raising children actually entails, for Morgan spends entire afternoons working out at the gym, drinking cocktails with her new “BFF”s and wistfully checking out potential future employers, all while shuttling her son from babysitter to neighbor to child care center. This doesn’t reflect the life of any decent stay-at-home mother I know, and I know plenty of them.
Another of Thayer’s characters, “starving artist” Natalie, has the dream gig of house sitting for her wealthy aunt, getting paid a salary to boot. Natalie is free to spend her days as she wishes, painting for hours on end with no worries of how to pay her rent — hardly “starving.”
Morgan, Natalie and the rest of Thayer’s characters seem to be formed from the mind of someone who has no actual life experience in any of the subjects on which she writes, or even knowledge gained from observing those who do. Instead, they are manifestations of adolescent fantasies of what these types of women (and men) appear to be from the outside.
The various conflicts are artificial and oversimplified; they are likewise resolved in a childish manner. I enjoy a little “chick lit” as much as the next person; it can be quite relaxing to sit down with an easy — even silly — novel and read away the afternoon. I do require, however, that the story not insult my intelligence or life choices.
“Summer Breeze” is nothing but a poorly constructed fairy tale. It isn’t worth your time.