A Month of Summer by Lisa Wingate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Johanna Parker's versatile voice brings this book to life in the audiobook version of Lisa Wingate's novel. I checked it out at random from my library's digital audiobook service when I was testing their updated mobile app. I'd never heard of the book or the author; I just liked the cover. I liked the ideas of planting a seedling and a month of summer. What an amazing bonus it was to discover such a lovely story!
Rebecca Macklin has spent more than 30 years believing her father abandoned her and her mother for a new life with his new wife and her mentally challenged son. She has held on to that bitterness for so long, she doesn't even see how it's poisoned her relationship with her husband and cut her off from three decades of her father's love. Now her father has Alzheimer's disease, and her stepmother, Hanna Beth, has had a massive stroke. Reluctantly, Rebecca boards a plane to Dallas, leaving behind her 9-year-old daughter, Macey, and her struggling marriage in order to spend a few weeks taking care of her father and stepbrother, Teddy. Their caretaker has vanished, leaving behind a filthy house, disconnected utilities, and empty bank accounts.
Hanna Beth Parker is determined to regain her powers of speech and control over her bodily functions. The idea that her beloved husband and son are dependent on the whims of her angry, hurt stepdaughter scares her. She knows that Rebecca has no idea what really happened all those years ago. But for now, Hanna Beth is trapped inside her uncooperative body with only the nurses and her "neighbor" and fellow patient, Claude, for company.
This is a story about family--biological and otherwise. It's a story of forgiveness and learning to love and trust. It's a story categorized as "Christian Fiction," surprisingly enough, since there is zero preachiness and no sermons on How To Pray And Be Saved From All Your Troubles. (I usually hate "Christian Fiction" because most of it is proselytizing thinly veiled with a not-terribly-well-written story. It makes me embarrassed to be a Christian.) Some of the coincidences, however, are Positively Providential (as Mrs. Rachel Lynde would say).
Johanna Parker's voice wraps around you like a warm shawl on a chilly day. Each character sounds different, almost as though the book were read by a full cast instead of by one talented woman. For example, the native Texans spoke with thicker accents, while Rebecca retained only a hint of her roots, and Macey sounded like a child of the West Coast.
My only quibble with this novel, and the only reason I didn't give it 5 stars, is that at times I felt like Rebecca was a little too angst-y for a 45-year-old woman. Then again, in her situation I might also be afraid to broach difficult subjects with my husband and would shy away from unwanted realities, too. I sometimes found myself almost yelling at my car stereo, "For crying out loud, just say it! Just tell the truth! You people need to learn how to communicate!" As is true in real life, so much anguish and drama would be eliminated if everyone always spoke the truth no matter what, no excuses.
Overall, though, I loved this book and was sad to have it end. I look forward to reading (listening to!) the other books in this series.
For readers' advisors: character doorway, definitely. Everything else paled in comparison, although the story was also good, and the narrator made the language come alive. Since it's Christian Fiction, it's "clean," meaning no sex, violence, or bad language.
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