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What Dies in Summer: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Length: 289 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


A beautifully written and deeply engaging study of loss and innocence, suffused with chilling dread. A haunting novel, a captivating debut; I loved it. (S.J. Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep)

What Dies in Summer is a harrowing tale of loss, love, death, and unspeakable secrets. And Tom Wright, he can flat-out tell a story. He writes with intelligence, grace, and mettle. He sees what most of us are unable to see and says what we are unwilling to say. What skill, what courage, what a splendid and terrifying debut novel. (John Dufresne, author of Requiem, Mass)

...seductively suspenseful coming-of-age novel.... Wright, a practicing psychologist, expertly weaves together a literary tapestry of self-discovery, brutal sadistic violence, custodial battles, and tender, burgeoning sexuality, leaving readers spellbound by a story that delivers on several levels. The author’s impressive, multi-tiered storytelling talents are on brilliant display in this entrancing, impressive debut. (Publishers Weekly)

A compulsive and provocative novel, Tom Wright manages to combine familiar themes of youth―fear, desire, vulnerability and chaos – with a story that both unsettles and intrigues the reader. A narrative voice that’s raw and desperate, a story that grips from start to finish, What Dies In Summer is hugely impressive. (John Boyne, author of The Absolutist)

A magnificent novel, not so much about loss of innocence as innocence put through the masher. The story pulsates with a deep dread that would be unbearable if the novel weren't so sweet, funny, sexy and ultimately moving. (Nick Cave, author of The Death of Bunny Munro)

An erotic, compelling and deeply assured debut, midway between Ellroy and Faulkner. It evokes so precisely the beauty and sadness of first love and lost innocence. (Sam Taylor, author of The Amnesiac)

You will find fascinating and powerful women in these pages, demanding female relatives as well as local eccentrics. Biscuit, as our likable narrator is called, has a heck/hell of a year navigating family cruelty, neighborhood murders, his own sexual desire, and even a bear attack, but he always listens thoughtfully to those who would advise him. By the end of the story, life no longer offers Biscuit (or anyone) safety, but Wright shows beautifully how a boy can learn to become a good and capable man. (Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River)

Starred review. ...Even with its hints of southern gothic and mysticism, this coming-of-age novel keeps its solidly quotidian background. An unusually accomplished and evocative debut, in which what dies is innocence. (Booklist)

[What Dies in Summer] builds upon the framework of the conventional modern thriller to fashion something that is much, much more… Beautifully written… this raw, powerful story, with its undertow of dread, heralds the arrival of a major new writer. (The Daily Mail (UK))

A coming-of-age drama with shades of Stand By Me… a moving exploration of the vulnerability of youth, and of tangled family relationships. (The Guardian (UK))

Practically flawless. (The Sunday Times (UK))

Elegantly written… an unsettling novel about the loss of innocence. (The Times (UK))

...this accomplished... novel is... a mix of the fey, the fairy tale... and the unspeakably grim. (Julie Meyerson - New York Times Book Review)


An erotic, compelling and deeply assured debut, midway between Ellroy and Faulkner. It evokes so precisely the beauty and sadness of first love and lost innocence. - Sam Taylor, author of The Republic of Trees

Product Details

  • File Size: 1205 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 4, 2012)
  • Publication Date: May 28, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007HXFD7S
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,853 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Set in Texas in an era when Elvis is King, this coming-of-age novel is filled with the angst of a young man at odds with his history over a long summer when his cousin comes to live with him and his grandmother. Both young people have escaped their nuclear families, Jim (nicknamed Biscuit) from an abusive stepfather, Lee Ann (L.A.) from a situation she refuses to talk about. Only children, but cousins as close as siblings, Jim and L.A. fall into familiar rhythms under Gram's roof, both of their mothers, Leah and Rachel, given to excessive drinking, unpredictable behavior and unsavory men. Given her behavior since arriving, isolating and burrowing under mountains of pillows before she can fall asleep at night, Jim suspects that L.A. has suffered some kind of abuse. With Gram as their moral centerpiece, these bright young protagonists remind me of adolescent versions of the boy and girl in "The Night of the Hunter", seeking safety and security with a woman who will never betray them.

Ranging over vacant lots and stream beds collecting bottles, a freedom encouraged by Gram, Jim and L.A. encounters an unsavory ex-con, a man L.A. cleverly outwits when his ill intentions become evident. More disturbing is their discovery of a teenaged girl's naked and mutilated body near the tracks. This is a turning point for everyone as Wright ratchets up a sense of imminent danger that pervades the rest of the novel, L.A. potentially in the sights of a man who has claimed more than one victim in this sleepy Texas suburb. The author balances Jim's growing fascination with the physical aspects of his romance with his girlfriend and the burdens of manhood, the need to protect the females in the household from danger, his gift, "a touch of the sight", bringing vivid dreams and a consciousness of lurking menace.
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Format: Hardcover
Sometimes I wonder why we all do this - review books, I mean. All these opinions floating out there in the ether. Do they help people find books to read? Do books that deserve to sell really sell more if we say we liked them? Fortunately, whenever I start wondering that too much a book like What Dies in Summer comes along and I remember why I do this - I like blathering about books and I really like it when I find a debut author who impresses me.

What Dies in Summeralmost immediately reminded me of North Toward Home, Willie Morris' wonderful memoir about growing up in the South and being an expatriate of the South in that scary place we call "the North." It reads much as Morris' memoir with a slow easy cadence that carries you along. For me it also helped that it's set in the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas where I spent some time as a teenager. There's something warm and comforting about familiar settings.

Once I settled into this groove, a fictional memory, a novel about the loss of innocence, the hero's journey, and so on, the author twisted his gentle cadence down a surprising road filled with rape, murder, and despair, but redeemed in the end by the love of family. There is so much beauty in this book as our hero (Jim) and his cousin (L.A.) seek out better lives with their grandmother, their own homes being far too dangerous to live in. Things are, of course, complicated in many ways and there is so much brutality lying just underneath the surface that there are moments when you fear it will come up from under the the water even as you see its shadow approaching. Mr. Wright handles this with a deft hand telling a sad, desperate, wistful, and ultimately hopeful story of truth speaking and redemption. Great debut - highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
With a down-to-earth writing style and in-depth human insight, this page-turning crime fiction novel is a quintessential summer read for those who like dark paranormal twists and a Southern Gothic flavor to their novels.

About: In a Southern town during the early 1970’s, a young teenage boy named Jim (aka Biscuit) lives with his grandmother after his stepfather has beaten him badly enough to leave him in the hospital; and it’s not the first time. When his cousin L.A. comes to live with them, because she too is being abused, a common bond and familial friendship is created.

What is special about Biscuit is that besides being unusually introspective for his age, he has a touch of “the sight” and sees glimpses of things in dreams and otherwise that others cannot. It’s all looked at as part of his heritage since the gift runs in the family, with L.A. and his grandmother possessing their own version of knowing.

When Biscuit and L.A. find a mutilated teenage girl’s body near the train tracks, there begins the discovery of a series of murders - all by a twisted serial killer who is profiled as a member of their community.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this novel. Tom Wright has an interesting writing style that is both descriptive and unusual. In giving Biscuit his voice he has created a wonderful character. The boy narrates his story with a youthful southern drawl and local colloquialism that makes the read a special one; it gives the story a realistic and grounded feeling. I felt like Biscuit’s thoughts about life and growing up were reflective and respectable for a growing young man on the verge of adulthood. I liked that a lot.
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