Rating: 4 1/2 stars
“Summer Secrets” by Jane Green is, especially for those of us who don’t drink much, a window into the life of an alcoholic. Cat doesn’t start off as an alcoholic, but the buzz she gets from liquor and the way it makes her feel (prettier, smarter, funnier) keep her coming back for more. While the black-outs she experiences when drinking are disturbing, they don’t compel her to stop drinking.
The story alternates mostly between London in 1969 and London 2014, with one quick trip to London 1969. There are visits to America along the way. Cat’s story is told in first person narrative and she spares the reader nothing. We learn about her one-night stands, the one-night stands she doesn’t remember, waking up in strange places after a night of drinking. She shares the story of her uncaring father — how he never seemed to love her and called her a “changeling” which she thought was good until she looked it up. And there’s the fact that she looks different than her parents — they are tall and thin and pale while she has warm olive skin and dark hair.
It’s difficult to hear about how Cat tries and then falls off the wagon over and over. Thankfully, Green spares us some of the details when the story skips forward more than a decade telling the “now” along with the “then.” The story is painful at times — just as the life of someone struggling with alcoholism must be quite painful at times. But the payoff, at the end of the story, is worth the pain.
Green writes beautifully about relationships, family and growing up — maturing and getting wiser. One of the themes could be “it’s never too late,” and maybe that’s a good thought for many people. It’s never too late to change your life. It’s never too late to find love. It’s never to late to say you’re sorry. Or as Claire Cook, another wonderful author, might say: It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover picture book provided by St. Martin’s Press for review purposes.