Author: Justin Cronin
Rating: 2 stars
I’m finally being forced to own up to why so many books from my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list have been lingering on my shelves for so long. It’s because they’re boring. So, so, so very boring.
I powered through The Summer Guest because I love Justin Cronin’s post apocalyptic vampire nightmare The Passage. I wish I hadn’t. Cronin has the bona fides and is an artist with prose, but I just spent two weeks (two weeks!) on a book about white dudes waxing poetic about war, manhood, mortality, and fish. A book this size should have taken me four days, max. But it felt like it took me an hour to get through a single page, sometimes.
The Summer Guest is told in a number of different perspectives circling around a fishing camp in Maine. Harry Wrainwright, dying of cancer, is there to catch one last big one before he dies. He’s also bought the camp to bequeath to Jordan. Jordan’s in love with Kate, the daughter of the current owners, Joe-a draft dodger-Lucy. Except- and here is the big secret that the novel takes three hundred pages to tell but is obvious from the first page- Kate’s father is not actually Joe, it’s Harry.
That’s it. That’s the book. A lot of long, lingering, awful deaths (Harry’s, his first wife’s, his infant son’s, and Joe’s dad’s), a secret that’s not a secret, some really tepid romances, and fishing. Excuse me while I go inject myself with caffeine.
Look, Cronin’s a great writer. The man can craft a sentence. If philosophical novels set in the countryside in Maine are your bag, you’ll dig it. But it’s just the kind of literary MFA class bullshit that I am so tired of. There’s exactly one black person in this novel. I think he was an bellboy. He was mentioned in a single line. Everyone else is white and, despite vague differentiations of class and gender, they all sound exactly the same.
The Summer Guest might have been better served by a short story format, or by a third-person point of view, or by not having so many fucking fish (How. How did I ever think I would enjoy a book featuring fishing? This is the real question I can’t get over). I don’t know. All I do know is that I kind of want my two weeks back, please. And that I really need to go through my tbr pile to really be sure that everything on there is something I actually want to read.