Speaking of Summer

Speaking of Summer

The new novel from the author of Upstate, one of five books selected by the National Book Foundation for the inaugural Literature for Justice Program: a literary thriller about one woman's desperate search for her missing twin sister, a multi-layered mystery set against the neighborhoods of Harlem.On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer's twin sister Summer walks to the...

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Title:Speaking of Summer
Author:Kalisha Buckhanon
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Speaking of Summer Reviews

  • Liz

    One hundred pages into this book I was ready to give up. I had decided the main character, Autumn, was a messed up fruitcake that I had had enough of. But I plowed along and I am glad I did. Slowly Autumn and the cast of characters grew on me and I began to get a hint of the plot twist to come.

    There's a lot here ... the complexity of family dynamics, the ways the mind protects itself, the diversity, indifference and dangers of urban life ... but there's also attachment, strength and hope for

    One hundred pages into this book I was ready to give up. I had decided the main character, Autumn, was a messed up fruitcake that I had had enough of. But I plowed along and I am glad I did. Slowly Autumn and the cast of characters grew on me and I began to get a hint of the plot twist to come.

    There's a lot here ... the complexity of family dynamics, the ways the mind protects itself, the diversity, indifference and dangers of urban life ... but there's also attachment, strength and hope for the future. I grew to really like this story.

    I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.

  • Erin Glover

    Autumn’s twin sister Summer has gone missing from the roof of their Harlem brownstone, and no one cares. The papers don’t mention her since she’s not rich and White. Even Autumn believes the culprit is a Black man.

    But what if the real bogeyman is herself?

    “We riot when Black men are shot.

    Autumn’s twin sister Summer has gone missing from the roof of their Harlem brownstone, and no one cares. The papers don’t mention her since she’s not rich and White. Even Autumn believes the culprit is a Black man.

    But what if the real bogeyman is herself?

    “We riot when Black men are shot. What about those women?” The missing ones. The ones who disappear?

    Autumn winds up in a hospital. Her boyfriend Chase feels it’s more than stress. Feels Autumn is wearing herself out. But Chase doesn’t understand Autumn. He had not lost his mother and sister in the same year. Yet something seeps below the surface of this hospital visit. It seems Autumn’s been here before. There’s something deeper, darker that grief for her missing relatives. It’s grief for her missing self.

    Only one person can help Autumn. That is the policeman Mr. Montgomery. He alone understands what Autumn is going through. And in a surprise twist, her issues are not what you think they are. Autumn’s issues go much, much deeper than the loss of her twin sister and her mother.

    Autumn alludes to the problem in the prologue. As she runs the gauntlet of catcalls through Harlem, not trusting anyone, she runs for all women. “If you were a woman who saw me like that, but you were busy running too, please know I was running for us all.” She literally runs to self-knowledge. Otherwise, she will disintegrate.

    It's not the best writing. It's quite choppy. Bad flow at parts. But the story is so compelling and to see a good work that addresses mental illness made me rate up.

    This is a book about empowerment. About as women, being heard in the world. About having a voice. That although we are deeply flawed, we are normal, and have a life worth living.

  • Nia Forrester

    This author, who brought us

    one of my all-time favorite novels, keeps switching things up. Her voice changes from book to book, but what remains the same is that she brings us fiction rooted in some of the most troubling social issues of our time.

    In

    she tackles violence against women, mental illness, and the kinds of secrets that make frightened girls grow into fragmented women. There's even a little subtle commentary on gentrification and the changing face of

    This author, who brought us

    one of my all-time favorite novels, keeps switching things up. Her voice changes from book to book, but what remains the same is that she brings us fiction rooted in some of the most troubling social issues of our time.

    In

    she tackles violence against women, mental illness, and the kinds of secrets that make frightened girls grow into fragmented women. There's even a little subtle commentary on gentrification and the changing face of Harlem thrown in. What I liked most about this novel is that it includes a lot of introspection as Autumn, the main protagonist, tries to figure herself out, and reconstruct the past to understand her present. I like reading characters' thoughts, and seeing how through those thoughts, they eventually change behavior and relate to other characters differently. This book gave me plenty of that, though I suspect it will perhaps be too much for some readers.

    My only minor quarrel is that at times the prose seemed self-conscious in its effort to be literary. Some sentences I had to re-read three times because they were so laden with heavy

    they failed to convey mood. That also made this a somewhat slower reading experience than it might have been if the language was smoother. Still, there is no doubt that this was a very intriguing plotline, and a book well worth reading. As always, I'm eager to see what Kalisha Buckhanon puts out next. Recommended.

  • Melyssa

    I can't remember where I first heard about

    by Kalisha Buckhanon, but as soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to add it to my to-be-read list. I enjoy a good mystery, and I was excited that this one featured African American women. Additionally, I found the twin element intriguing. The publisher, via the synopsis, describes this book as follows:

    I can't remember where I first heard about

    by Kalisha Buckhanon, but as soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to add it to my to-be-read list. I enjoy a good mystery, and I was excited that this one featured African American women. Additionally, I found the twin element intriguing. The publisher, via the synopsis, describes this book as follows:

    Sounds good, right? Well, if that was the story I read I would agree. This was my biggest issue with the book - the synopsis - hence the 4-star (rather than 5) rating. Because the synopsis is was drew me to this book in the first place, I felt a little cheated after having completed it.

    The story I read, I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a little slow to start, and I was a little put off by Autumn and some of her behavior, but the book kept tugging at me and I kept reading it - finishing in just two days. But the book is not a "literary thriller" as described. I would say it is more of a psychological study of how major trauma affects women and how it can be dangerous just living as a woman, a Black woman, in the United States. The prose is enticing. Ms. Buckhanon has a way with words that, as a lover of words and collector of quotations, I can appreciate. The plot twist is interesting but expected, with the indicators that the author placed leading up to it. Once this twist is revealed, the novel changes course and becomes a more complete piece of literary fiction focusing on a very important and relevant topic.

    : I don't want to give too many specifics to spoil this book for potential readers. I do highly recommend it. Just go into knowing the published synopsis is a bit misleading. Read it through the lens of violence against women and healing from it in the age of the me-too movement.

  • karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    i’m not sure i would categorize this as a “literary thriller” or even “fast-paced” as the synopsis claims—to read this one quickly does a disservice to its subject matter, which is more important and necessary than most books classified as “thrillers” typically contain.

    it is, technically, a missing person novel, but it is also a missing

    novel, about family and mental illness and the aftereffects of childhood trauma, about the everyday burdens of being a woman in a culture

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    i’m not sure i would categorize this as a “literary thriller” or even “fast-paced” as the synopsis claims—to read this one quickly does a disservice to its subject matter, which is more important and necessary than most books classified as “thrillers” typically contain.

    it is, technically, a missing person novel, but it is also a missing

    novel, about family and mental illness and the aftereffects of childhood trauma, about the everyday burdens of being a woman in a culture still hostile to women and a social climate where white victims get more news coverage than black victims, where there is so much violence against individuals that the incidents begin to blur together, their victims falling between the cracks as the next sensationalized crime takes its place on the news cycle; a situation autumn addresses while scouring online crime blotters while searching for her missing twin sister, summer:

    she experiences compassion fatigue from the other side, as well, while waiting hopelessly for responses to the posters she puts up across the neighborhood; made conscious of how she herself has become inured to the ubiquitous visual white noise of comparable fliers in an urban environment where people just—vanish.

    there’s a lot of pain in this novel, and it is often beautifully written. i’m not sure why i didn’t love it, but it gets a solid 3 1/2 stars from me. some of it is simply down to flow or pacing—it’s fairly languid and meandering and once i predicted where the story was headed, i became impatient for the book to deliver on that prediction so i could see how the revelation changed the character and the dramatic tension and it just took. its. sweet. time. doing. so. but there’s a lot to applaud here, and i’ll certainly read more of her work going forward. 3 1/2 stars is not an “avoid this book” warning—it’s just a matter of my own subjective storytelling preferences, and none of you are me, thank your lucky stars.

  • Janel

    Speaking of Summer opens with a prologue that draws you in instantly; there’s just something about its first person narrative that pulls you in, makes it feel as though said character wants to tell you, the reader, their story.

    I wouldn’t class this novel as “fast-paced” as the blurb states, but it certainly addressed the themes mentioned: urban peril, victim invisibility and what it means to be a black woman in America and societies attitude towards them. Autumn was a very complex character.

    Speaking of Summer opens with a prologue that draws you in instantly; there’s just something about its first person narrative that pulls you in, makes it feel as though said character wants to tell you, the reader, their story.

    I wouldn’t class this novel as “fast-paced” as the blurb states, but it certainly addressed the themes mentioned: urban peril, victim invisibility and what it means to be a black woman in America and societies attitude towards them. Autumn was a very complex character. From her early childhood experiences to her present day life, this novel unpicks Autumn’s urban life and how her experiences impacted her. More a story of Autumn’s self-, and society, exploration than a ‘missing person’ novel.

    “Women of color don’t matter in America unless we are rich and famous.”

    The pace was steady, there was a slight lull in the middle but a turn of events caused the pace to pick up. Not ‘light’ reading, this novel sheds light on many important issues and that’s the reason I recommend it – for the insight into the experiences it details.

    Also with themes of mental health, which are always of great interest to me. How the mind constructs itself, and it’s ability, or inability, to cope with certain trauma. Buckhanon also mentioned “compassion fatigue”, a term that really stayed with me because it’s a reflection of the world we live in. Where you’re constantly hearing about tragic events in the news, the compassion you offer to others, but how much compassion do you have to give? You need to keep some for yourself, to be kind to yourself, and look after your own mental health – with all the horrific events happening around the world, do you find yourself less affected by them than you once were, do they have less of an impact on you than they should?

    Speaking of Summer is literary in nature, well-written with important themes. It didn’t read as fluidly as it, perhaps, could have but I definitely want to read more from Buckhanon, particularly her novel Upstate. I’m finding this novel hard to review but I hope I have provided enough for you to decide if you want to read it for yourself.

    *My thanks to the publisher (Counterpoint) for providing me with a copy of this novel*

  • Anna

    If you're looking for a mystery, it's best you look elsewhere for the only thing truly mysterious about this novel is the reliability -- or lack thereof -- of the narrator, and it is a far cry from that which it is described. Leisurely paced, with an almost dreamlike quality, the overall effect is disorienting -- I'll give it that much, and taken for what it is -- an intimate exploration of grief coupled with mental illness as well as a visceral examination of the way in which the crimes against

    If you're looking for a mystery, it's best you look elsewhere for the only thing truly mysterious about this novel is the reliability -- or lack thereof -- of the narrator, and it is a far cry from that which it is described. Leisurely paced, with an almost dreamlike quality, the overall effect is disorienting -- I'll give it that much, and taken for what it is -- an intimate exploration of grief coupled with mental illness as well as a visceral examination of the way in which the crimes against women, particularly women of color, are so excessively ignored within our justice system that it is itself criminal -- it's certainly a worthy read. Just read it for the right reasons and in the right mind.

  • Amiee

    I didn’t hate this book but the blurb made me feel like I wasn’t reading the same book!

    This is NOT a thriller. I had sorta guessed the twist relatively early.

    The bulk of the book is finding oneself and dealing with trauma.

    Well written but the blurb was incredibly misleading.

  • Michelle

    This is another book where the star rating is going to be very hard.

    What drew me to this book was the earnest anticipation of Russell from Ink and Paper blog and the many accolades my GR friends have given Buckhanon's earlier novels

    and

    . From my understanding Buckhanon hits hard on those topics that hit our community hard. She does this in a way that reads like poetry but in a language that is at the eye level of the reader.

    With the opening passages of this book I felt that

    This is another book where the star rating is going to be very hard.

    What drew me to this book was the earnest anticipation of Russell from Ink and Paper blog and the many accolades my GR friends have given Buckhanon's earlier novels

    and

    . From my understanding Buckhanon hits hard on those topics that hit our community hard. She does this in a way that reads like poetry but in a language that is at the eye level of the reader.

    With the opening passages of this book I felt that she was fire but by the 33% mark I was about to bail on this book.

    I felt like the plot was meandering and God help me I was so done with Autumn

    was about to run away. But as I thought I understood the point Buckhanon was trying to get across I continued. As I reached the 60% mark the story started to come together. Some of Buckhanon's detours made more sense.

    We live in a society where Black girls and women are devalued. This is true even in the Black community. We raise our voices and fists in protest of Black men brutalized or wrongfully imprisoned. If a Black woman is sexually assaulted by a Black man of any standing or prominence --

    If she endures trauma she is to do so silently, in private; her public face that of "a strong Black woman". If she is passionate about her cause or defends herself what she deems as an injustice - she is labeled "An angry Black woman". But alas, for the most part, the Black woman is invisible. You could walk by her everyday -heck, even bump into her - and not even acknowledge she were there.

    So yeah I GET where Buckhanon is coming from.

    Even though I had some trouble getting into this book at first I will definitely be picking up her other two books.

  • MA ♛

    Idk this story was a mess and nothing tied together, but at least the cover is pretty?

    #goodreadsgiveaway

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