Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Review: Perennials

Perennials

Perennials
By Mandy Berman
Random House, Hardcover, 9780399589317, June 6, 2017, 288pp.

The Short of It: 

You know that nostalgic feeling you get when looking at an old Polaroid photo? That’s how I felt while reading this book. Youth captured in a snapshot.

The Rest of It:

As kids, Rachel and Fiona spent many wonderful summers at Camp Marigold. Eight glorious weeks of swimming, riding horses and making new friends. Things at home could change, but once they returned to camp, everything fell back into place and all was good with the world. In Perennials, Rachel and Fiona return to camp as counselors and with them is Fiona’s younger sister, Helen who is about to experience camp as they once did many years ago.

Summer camp. Sigh. When I was a kid, I read a lot of books about summer camp and they really had me longing for that experience. It wasn’t until last summer that I actually attended camp (as a leader) and although I wasn’t there as a camper, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. In this novel, Berman beautifully captures all the angst and anxiety of pre-teens but she somehow manages to capture the doubts and worries of the young adult counselors as well.

This book is summer, but it’s also life and love and friendship and all the not-so-pleasant stuff that comes with it. There’s a little more “action” between the campers and counselors than I would have liked to see. I am not a prude but since I work with teens and have teens of my own, I was a little sensitive to some parts of the story but at the same time I am far from naive. That said, anyone who is sensitive to language or sexual content may want to think twice before handing the book over to your teen. It’s not marketed as YA but from the cover you might think so.

In the end, I thought it was pretty well done. The final pages were especially poignant and frankly had me all choked-up. Perennials is Berman’s first novel and I look forward to what she writes next.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields
By Phillip Lewis
Hogarth Press, Hardcover, 9780451495648, March 2017, 368pp.

The Short of It:

A father and son story but really a story about family relationships and what it means to come home.

The Rest of It:

Henry Aster’s father returns to the small Appalachian town where he grew up and moves his family into a house with a past. The dark, immense home was once the scene of a grisly murder involving young children. Its looming presence foreshadowing the unraveling of the family to come.

From the description it sounds like a ghost story and maybe it is but not the kind you’d be expecting. This story focuses on the relationship between father and son, missed-opportunities, and at its heart, how we process grief and loss.

After a terrible loss, Henry’s father, a brilliant man trying to reinvent himself as a writer, struggles with what he’s been dealt. The entire family struggles with him but in different ways. Instead of coming together, they push each other away and it’s incredibly heartbreaking to witness.

There is a lot of good to be had in this novel. The writing is lovely but the Asters are readers so there are plenty of literary references that I jotted down. I love when books mention other books. But what I really loved was the slow build of what eventually causes the family to fall apart. There is a lot of tension in this novel which made the page turns go that much faster.

However, one section of the novel strayed from the main story which seemed a little out of left field but I was very happy to see how it fit into the story as a whole once I got to the end of the book. The final pages are gold. I reread them many times and loved them to pieces.

One of my favorite books of all time is A Separate Peace by John Knowles and although The Barrowfields is nothing like that book in story, the “coming-of-age” aspect of this novel reminds me a lot of A Separate Peace and yes, maybe even the main character reminds me of it, too.

I say, read it.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.