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on November 17, 2012
The title suggests romantic fluff, and that is a disservice to this story. I suppose it's a chick novel with three feminine protagonists, but it deserves a wider audience. The closest author analogies that come to mind are the short stories Of Wendell Berry, or the later novels of Joe Coomer. There is no conventional romance, just a fair portrayal of the many adjustments living and loving of all sorts sometimes requires. The voices of the characters are real and natural. The narrative voice is steady, familiar with the challenges maturing brings at every age, and ready to laugh both darkly and kindly at human imperfection. Chesterton said somewhere 'Anything worth doing is worth doing badly'; loving as best you can, always imperfectly, does much more good than not loving at all. I hope Ms. Downs has another novel in the works.
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on March 21, 2013
I liked the character development and the story line seemed ok but I felt it never really took off. The whole book seemed kind of like it needed a bigger hook. The ending seemed random. One of the characters was a child with autism and he was described well (I have a son with autism). I thought the characters' initial responses to his autism (from the teenager Jane who cared for him to the community) was somewhat outdated. Autism is everywhere in our community and I've experience more knowledge and compassion than were exhibited here; but I live in a more urban area so I may just be fortunate. Anyway, a quick and easy read that I looked forward to, but I wanted a bit of something more. The ending was not satisfying to me.

***Another reader pointed out that this book took place in 1992 and correctly suggested that understanding and acceptance of autism would have been very different then. Absolutely. I had missed the fact that this took place so long ago. People would not have had the awareness or understanding of autism we see today, which was why I found it so off putting. These interactions were probably pretty representative of those times!
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on January 31, 2017
Three generations of women’s stories interweave as each must find their own hidden strengths. Bonnie must come to terms with her aging mother’s secrets. Her niece, Meg, is set to marry her perfect match, but when adversity strikes will they become closer or will they be pushed apart? Bonnie’s daughter, Jane, is a 14 year old who is given responsibility of a neighbor’s autistic 5-year old, but will it be too much for her?

As soon as I understood what relationship each character had with one another, I was hooked. Each chapter is told from the POV of one of the main characters: Bonnie, Meg, or Jane. This book was all about the character relationships and character details. I was extremely fascinated to see the dynamics that played out with a character with dementia and a character with autism.

This is contemporary work at its most realistic. It isn’t necessarily a fictional book with a recognizable plot arc. It is a story that will delve into characters we might not necessarily see in fiction or portrayed in fiction as a normal part of the characters’ lives. This is their reality and it is so interesting to read about.
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on October 23, 2012
This is a fast read that was eerily reminiscent of my own life. The characters were real, with solid personalities. Currently a member of the "sandwich generation" I could relate to all of them and I was mesmerized, scared and hopeful for them, all at the same time.

Taking place over the course of a summer in a Midwest town this novel moves back and forth between main characters to tell the unfolding story from several points of view. One thing that I found fascinating was that each one made a mistake of some sort and the ramifications of that mistake were not always bad. I guess that's kind of a good rule for living and makes for a feel-good-and-quite-content-when-its-over kind of story.

I highly recommend reading this novel!
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on May 7, 2013
This was a wonderful, true to life story about three generations of women from one family. The story takes us through the lives of the women, showing events that have helped shape them into who they are. Vivian and Bonnie are the daughters of Elizabeth, who is portrayed as a cold, undemonstrative mother as she lives out her final years in a nursing home. Meg and Jane are the daughters of Bonnie and Vivian, and we watch them struggle to come into their own.

There isn't a strong male figure in the story. Bonnie and Vivian's father has been dead many years, and Bonnie is divorced, while Meg's fiance is a mama's boy. Not only is there little male presence in the lives of these women, but also, Elizabeth and Vivian share a common secret that caused their relationship to become toxic and to remain so for the rest of Elizabeth's life.

This author has the remarkable gift of setting forth natural dialogue, as well as to establish a marvelous rhythm and flow of the story. There are no "over the top" moments in the entire story, and it is one that brings a twinge of sadness when the reader is done, because the hours reading it are over.

This is a must read for all ages.
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on October 29, 2012
Though I am past the stage of my life where I deal with the issues of raising children or making the sometimes hard decisions regarding the care of aging parents with physical and mental challenges, I was struck by the strong familiarity of the emotions and experiences of the book's main characters and by the end of the book, I felt I knew them all very well. The story certainly pulls the reader through a gamut of troubled situations but gives strong hope for redemptive resolutions to all of us who are less than perfect.

I highly recommend this book to parents and grown children.....especially parents raising a challenged child and to their families, and adult children facing the changing dynamics of their relationship with aging parents. I also recommend it to teachers and educational aides, counselors and child care workers, and to all who are simply members of families who live and work through the joys and problems that come with that status.
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on January 1, 2014
I couldn't put this book down. It is a sensitive and authentic portrait of three small-town women who are related and who encounter enough heart-wrenching challenges during one summer to last a decade. The trio of women in this novel are characters you come to care about--that you root for, that you want good things for. Each one faces different challenges. Each one makes mistakes. It is beautifully and thoughtfully written novel that fits like your favorite cotton sweater. Toddie Downs' attention to detail and lush prose soar as does her storytelling. Shards of themes reappear throughout--honesty matters, goodness matters, intentions matter. Paced to perfection, it has mysterious elements, too, that keep the pages turning. Affirming without being saccharin, SUMMER MELODY was of my favorite novels this year.
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on May 22, 2014
The book follows the lives of 3 family members during a summer. Bonnie, Meg and Jane each face challenges and uncertainties as the novel progresses. Bonnie must deal with her aging mother who suffers from dementia and has been a difficult and unpleasant woman throughout her life. Meg, Bonnie's niece, must decide if she should go through with her upcoming wedding to a young man from a wealthy family and overbearing mother. Jane, Bonnie's 12 year old daughter takes on the job of babysitting an autistic boy and finds it frustrating and rewarding. The characters are interesting, realistic and well developed. The secondary characters, particularly Bonnie's mother Elizabeth, ring true. Not everyone's mother ages well.
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on September 6, 2013
I read for entertainment, not for literary value or education. And "Summer Melody" was quite entertaining.
This was a fun, entertaining read about a family and their community and their lives. Yes, I enjoyed the novel. It was about a family that lived life in the real world, not some made up ideal of the usual novels. The problems seemed real, the joys seemed real, the family seemed real ...even with the usual problems.

Read it, you'll enjoy it.

Patrick
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on May 4, 2016
This story was really hard for me to keep straight, maybe because I don't have long stretches of time to soak a lot of the book in at once but for the first 3rd of the book I had trouble keeping, Jane, Bonnie and Meg straight.

I did however enjoy how the story came together and ultimately I thought it was quite an enjoyable read. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a nice beach read!
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