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The Summer Guest Paperback – May 31, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Set primarily in a rustic fishing camp on the northern tip of Maine, the first 50 pages of Justin Cronin's The Summer Guest read like a lazy fishing expedition--most of the time is simply spent waiting for something to happen. Thankfully, this expansive family saga goes on to explore countless intriguing topics, including love, war, disease, loss, betrayal, and redemption. The book revolves around the story of Harry Wainwright, a wealthy entrepreneur who falls in love with the camp as a young man and returns decades later for one last day of fishing before he succumbs to terminal cancer. With Harry as a centerpiece, Cronin artfully weaves the tales of Joe and Lucy Crosby, the camp's owners; their daughter Kate; and Jordan, the camp's guide; into a complex web of family drama. Using history as both a backdrop and a main character, Cronin guides readers from World War II to Vietnam, with the story reaching its climax on a late summer day in 1994.

The beauty of The Summer Guest lies in Cronin's ability to create meaning in each character's situation. Whether dodging the draft on a fishing boat in rural Canada, serving up clams by the Boston Harbor, saying goodbye to a loved one, or finding new love where you were once afraid to look, Cronin creates deep, sincere characters with whom readers feel a powerful sense of investment. ("Here is grief, I thought, here is grief at last: the full measure and heft of it... I watched myself enter it as if I were stepping into a pool of the calmest, darkest waters... a feeling like happiness, everything drifting away…") This ability to make what at first may seem like a quiet day of fishing seem extraordinary is what sets Cronin apart from other novelists, and what makes a story of the everyday business of living, loving and dying seem somewhat extraordinary. --Gisele Toueg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A Maine fishing camp serves as the physical and emotional center for an extended circle of family and friends in this charming novel spanning three generations. On a single day in late summer, the rich financier Harry Wainwright, now dying of cancer, visits the camp he has frequented for more than 30 years. His visit prompts a flood of memories for each of the characters: Joe, who inherited the camp from his father but spent years away when his father convinced him to evade the Vietnam draft; Lucy, Joe's wife, whose love for her husband and the camp is intertwined with her love for Harry; Jordan, a young fishing guide who finds solace and purpose at the camp; and Lucy's daughter, Kate, an aspiring medical student whose presence links all of the characters. Each character tells a portion of their back-story in alternating chapters, and as the events of the day progress, the reader begins to understand the sources of the complex tension underlying each relationship. Chronologically, the story begins with the arrival of Joe's father to the camp just after World War II, and the whole novel has something of a 1940s feel about it: the bedrock realities of family and place remain constant in spite of the vicissitudes of emotions and events, and the voices of these Mainers have a lovely calm that evokes the timeless summer place. Though the pieces of the story fit almost too neatly and everyone ends up exactly where they should, the novel's recognition of human frailty and nobility rings true, as does its faithful recreation of a place outside the storms of history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385335822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385335829
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in New England, Justin Cronin is the author of Mary and O'Neil, which won the Pen/Hemingway Award and the Stephen Crane Prize, and The Summer Guest. Having earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, Cronin is now a professor of English at Rice University and lives with his family in Houston, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on September 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Simply put, this is a terrific book.

The primary setting is a fishing camp/resort in northwest Maine. The characters either have run, are running or will be running the place. Their lives have all been touched significantly by one man - the summer guest who has returned to the camp every summer for more than thirty years.

The novel acounts for the six main characters' lives in the present and in reflections of the past. The lives of the camp people are all tightly interwoven, since four are related (father, son and wife and grandson) and the fifth looks like he will marry into the family. What shows through the telling of their stories is the major affect that the summer guest has had on their lives - and them on his.

The novel is written so that chapter to chapter the first person narrative changes from character to character. A legitimate criticism is that Mr. Cronin does not give each a distinctive voice. If I put the book down in mid-chapter, I might have to go back to see who was speaking. The quality of this book well overrides this short-coming, however.

The stories of these characters are interesting, poignant and real. They are accounts of lives, loves and deaths touchingly told. What could have been a soap opera is so artfully told by Mr. Cronin that the book never became maudlin.

The characters are all likeable, yet very different in their own right with very human weaknesses and strengths. They are perhaps the most believable characters I have read of in a long long time. Except possibly for the gift given by the rich summer guest, Mr. Wainwright, the characters and their lives are all believable. There are no superhuman efforts. No pristine pure and perfect people. It is easy to imagine each person and every event.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on July 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This will probably be one of this reviewer's favorite books of 2004. Justin Cronin's THE SUMMER GUEST takes place, for the most part, at a rustic fishing camp in Maine and centers on the dying wishes of wealthy businessman Harry Wainwright. Harry has been spending the last thirty summers at the camp, having become a friend to the family that runs the place. Joe Crosby is the current owner, running the camp with his wife Lucy. Harry has come home to the camp to have his last dying wishes fulfilled, to fish one last time out on the lakes, and to reveal who will inherit his estate to those at the camp who have come to mean more to him than family.
The novel opens with a prologue that takes us to the end of WWII. A war veteran, Joseph Crosby, has brought his wife Amy and infant son Joe to Maine, taking a risk by purchasing and re-opening a fishing camp that he learned to love as a boy. The prologue depicts a war hero who is about to risk all he has for the hopes of a better life, as the couple has spent their entire life savings to start anew in this remote part of the country.
The prologue is misleading, as the reader will at first assume the story is about a WWII veteran, but it is not. THE SUMMER GUEST instead revolves around Joe, Joseph's son, Joe's wife Lucy, and the wealthy businessman who becomes their friend. It is their relationship that drives the plot to its conclusion, ending with the third generation member of the Crosby family, Kate. What makes this book a must-read is the skill that Cronin uses to create these characters, making each of them come alive, and the story that is behind each character.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Ray Lord on October 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For me, the hallmark of a "good book" is whether or not the writer has involved me in the lives of the people he or she has created. It includes taking me places where I have never been. Justin Cronin transported me to a spot in northwestern Maine where, although I have been to the state of Maine many times, I have never visited. In his THE SUMMER GUEST, he introduced people to me who instantly drew me into their situations, looking over their shoulders, listening to their thoughts. I CARED about them! (Isn't that what we readers do?)

Cronin's evident command of the locale, the mores, the temperaments of his characters, his intricately woven complications, and his love and compassion for the people he invented all combine to spread before us a riveting story of just plain, ordinary men and women but also we are able to take a look at some who are wealthy and worldly. In Cronin's rare and compelling manipulation of time, we are transported from 1947, aboard a train speeding through a snowy Maine night to 1997, a tranquil late-summer evening lake, aboard an old wooden rowboat. We meet Joe, his wife, his infant son and Kate and Jordan and Lucy and Harry and we are encouraged to hang out with them at a "Great Northwoods" fishing camp, where some come to work and some come to play. Mr. Cronin's sense of the colors and the smells and the textures of rural, heavily-forested Maine help us to flesh out the lives of the characters and their interactions. There is no way his readers cannot become involved! I defy anyone to read the first five pages of this book, put it down and not continue reading!

THE SUMMER GUEST by New Englander Justin Cronin... Readers, do you remember beginning or ending some of your "book reports" in school with "It made me feel like I was right there."? The defense rests...
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