Review: The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

the-last-days-of-summerShe can forgive. They can’t forget.

After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.

Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.

Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door…

What I Thought:
I found the initial premise of The Last Days of Summer interesting from the point of view of rehabilitation – can a convict ever really leave their past behind them and lead a productive life – but the book is less of that, and more a study of small town America and family.

Jasper returns home, not exactly welcomed by Lizzie, but with a sense from her of ‘if he can’t come home, where can he go?’. Unfortunately for the whole family, this small town has a long memory and it won’t be so easy for Jasper to fit back in.

I got the sense from Jasper immediately the he knew things were not going to turn out well for him, so by the time trouble starts showing up at the family home, he seems almost ready to get things underway. Lizzie tries her best to defend him, but it is somewhat half-heartedly – she knows that the people in their community will never forgive Jasper for his crimes.

I can’t give away too much without spoilers, but I think the most powerful thing in the book for me was trying to support my own liberal ideas of rehabilitation and ‘serving your time’ with the rights of the victims of crime and their families. How must victims and their families feel when those who have committed crimes against them arrive home and expect to carry on as normal? It’s a tricky question, which this book went some way – but not all the way, it’s impossible – to answering.

In terms of the writing, I did enjoy the descriptive language which brought the hot, American prairie to life and the ‘reveals’ were well plotted and timed very well, giving the last third of the book a blistering pace.

Overall, the book was a rewarding read, but definitely one for adults only!

I was given a copy of the book by the publisher (Penguin Ireland) in return for an honest review.

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