- Hardcover: 344 pages
- Publisher: Southern Methodist University Press (2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0870745050
- ISBN-13: 978-0870745058
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Flood Summer Hardcover – 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Beyond being just that, of course, the book contains a collection of compelling characters and situations that widely affect the reader, invoking sensations ranging from joy to betrayal, from heartbreak to hope, from humor to emotional (and even physical!) weariness.
I gave this book out to several friends for the holidays and have already (three days later) started hearing very positive feedback. If you truly enjoy reading and you are looking for your next book, consider this one.
During its initial chapters, in a scene inside a neck-deep flooded house in the country, the image of a poisonous water moccasin swimming toward the main male character Abe, with its head raised like a frog's, is just one of Stewart's dozens of creepy forget-me-nots. The sheer length and audacity of Stewart's suspenseful description of Abe's swimming, slipping, and sliding around, trying to avoid snakes and free his best friend's mother from where she's wedged, drowning between her car and a tree -- this section is absolutely spellbinding. Afterward of course the novel must go on. But Flood Summer refuses to "dry up," thanks in large part to Abe, a larger than life yet one-hundred-percent three-dimensional Arkansan. Bookish, a lone wolf, he lends the novel Biblical/Lincolnian stature.
In his Appalachian Gothic thriller-cum-love story Stewart gives us Abe's parents and working-crew buddies all rendered with the sculptor Duane Hanson's tough loving care. Then, too, there's the dark, exotic newcomer in Hot Springs, Marie, equally sculpted, complete with her train of characters, including the unforgettable waitress/newlywed Laine. I was especially taken with Stewart's portrait of Marie's "single" mother, also named Marie, who has now disappeared but was once totally under the thumb of a sleazy drug dealer who had set both mother and daughter on a wild car trip to pick up moonshine from a blind treacherous redneck, "Uncle Brady." Given "chick lit" and the preponderance of strong female characters in this decade, Stewart's portrait of Mama Marie as a vulnerable woman is extraordinary. She is one of the most enigmatic, disturbing loose cannons I've encountered in current American fiction. As a lost "damsel in distress" minus the sappy connotations, she represents a negative capability her hard-as-nails orphan daughter must find and understand before committing herself to her own true love Abe.
Thankfully, Stewart avoids an obvious sappy ending, with Abe and Marie tying the knot. Yet the novel's end is exhilarating, with its suggestion that a flood of feelings will eventually sweep all characters upstream.
The only serious current American writer who can match Stewart in the Nail-biting Suspense Department is Donna Tarrt in The Little Friend, which gives us chapter after chapter of controlled plot-driven mayhem. All the while we know what's ultimately going to happen, but moment by moment Stewart and Tarrt pull wondrous wool over our eyes.
Five cheers to Trent Stewart! Flood Summer is a first-rate first novel, the best thing that happened to Arkansas -- and to this reviewer -- since Noah rained Bill Clinton down on our heads!
Twenty-something Abe, working as a roofer, is a thoughtful type who didn't adjust well to college and now lives alone in a trailer with his books and cats. However, it is a devastating summer flood in which he nearly drowns attempting to save another that disturbs his uncomplicated life. On the other hand, twenty-year-old Marie was literally abandoned at age ten by her drug running mother because she was late for a delivery. Marie returns to her hometown after essentially being on the run for all those years to assist her father in a bookstore, but maintains an impenetrable toughness that belies her striking beauty.
A chance meeting with Marie's childhood friend Lainey results in her meeting Abe at a local swimming hole. The attraction is immediate, but Marie's wariness is a constant issue. The book is basically an observant examination of two tentative people feeling their way to some point that neither really can define. In addition, both Abe and Marie must cope with their families - fathers mostly. The author has a great talent for the dialog of those trying to understand their lives and connections to others. The Southern vernacular and way of life is a constant backdrop, captured most perfectly by the character Lainey. The ending is perhaps not all that could be expected, but there seems to be promise.