Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review - That Certain Summer by Irene Hannon

That Certain Summer  -     
        By: Irene Hannon
Two very different sisters . . . an unexpected homecoming . . . one unforgettable summer

Karen and Val are family--yet they're anything but close. Karen has carried the burden of responsibility for her aging mother ever since her sister left town years ago to pursue a career in theater. But Val had other reasons for moving away--as well as a secret to keep--and coming home has never been an option . . . until their mother suffers a stroke.

Reunited in their hometown, Karen and Val must grapple with past mistakes as they care for their ailing mother. When two handsome men enter the picture, the summer takes on a surprising new dimension. As their lives intersect, can each of them learn how to forgive, let go, and move on? And strengthened by the healing power of faith, might they also find the courage to love?

With her trademark compelling characters and heartwarming hope, award-winning author Irene Hannon pens an inspiring true-to-life tale of complex relationships, the search for forgiveness, and the life-changing process of finding love.

Irene Hannon is known for her romantic suspense stories and is a prolific and well-decorated author. That Certain Summer takes a slight right, returning to a previous love as she drops the suspense and focuses solely on the romance plot. Although she has written more than thirty-five books this is the first one I have read of hers. Overall, I found the story enjoyable.

I thought Irene put a lot of attention to detail in creating her characters. Karen, the good girl and Val, the pretty and talented one are so different and yet so much alike - very typical for sisters. Their tense relationship has been created by a critical mother, pitting the girls against each other. Neither is looking forward to their summer working together taking care of their mother after her stroke. Yet, as God is so good, He uses that which we fear to teach us more about ourselves and those close to us. The women realize how much of each other they have in their own qualities. Hannon does an excellent job of portraying this in her writing.

The male counterparts, Scott and David are also well-written characters. Their personal journeys feel realistic and the affectionate feelings that develops between them and the sisters is a sweet love affair. The struggles the men face are deep; a single father and a man broken and lost after a tragic accident. Both men have to turn to God to find the true path they are to follow. All four of these characters have their own focused point of view.

There are a many supporting characters that
do not have the front stage; Kristin (Karen's daughter), Michael (Karen's ex-husband), Margaret (mother to the sisters), Victoria (daughter of David), Dorothy (Scott's concerned mother), Steven (a youth in the church who lost his dream of playing football professionally after losing use of his legs), and Pastor Richards. They all help paint the picture of community surrounding and supporting the main characters.

The plot walks the sisters through self-discovery about their short-comings, their strengths and their need for each other. Val has a secret that she has shoved deep inside for almost eighteen years, causing a raging river of guilt and shame which is revealed towards the end of the story. She finds forgiveness and renewal by facing her past instead of hiding it. Karen learns self-confidence after a long marriage as a passive doormat.  She finds a new voice just in time to walk her through another family tragedy. The last one hundred pages of the book were the best.

Overall, the story is compelling and persuasive; however I struggled with the layout. Due to four different points of view I found it slow and choppy. It wasn't until 3/4 of the way through the book that I felt fully invested, "have-to-finish-the-book" kind of feeling. In my perspective this is a great vacation/beach read where you have time to spend with the characters, fully immersing yourself for a large chunk of time into their worlds. Due to a busy lifestyle in my home I had to read in snippets. With constant scene and point of view changes, often three or four each chapter I had too many opportunities to put the book down.

I still recommend this book to readers who love a deep true to life story with flawed characters trying to mirror their Creator. Someone who prefers Women's fiction over straight romance would likely love this book. A good summertime, faith-filled and inspirational read.

If you want to see some other reviews, check out these links.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group". 

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