Review:The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed

The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed
Release Date: June 2011
Publisher: Mira
Page Count: 320
Source: NetGalley

Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends—Isabel, Kendra and Mina—on a vacation, somewhere exotic and fabulous. Together with their mixed bag of parents, they’ve created a lifetime of memories. This year it’s a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends—the closest thing she has to family—Mina’s death has left Sam a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend’s surprise proposal, it’ll be the wrong one.

The answers aren’t in the journal Mina gave Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation’s stories of love and loss, and Sam’s glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.

Review: A story about friendship and all the ups and downs that childhood friends share as they grow older into adulthood. Two of the girls in the group have mothers that are willing to take them somewhere each and every summer. The other two girls don’t have mothers, for different reasons, and are treated like family as they also travel along with their two friends. When one of the girls gets terminally ill, she starts a journal with each of the friends to document her final days and thoughts with them personally.

Now, months later, she’s gone. For Samantha, nothing in her life will ever be the same. She can’t laugh without feeling guilty. Then, there’s the fact that her French boyfriend proposed to her and she just couldn’t say no, another reason she feels guilty. When she gets a call that the gang wants to schedule a vacation, she firmly tells them no! What could they be thinking, she wonders to herself. Yet they show up anyway – with extras.

As the vacation gets underway, you really get to know the other characters. At times, each of them is given the chance to tell their story with bits of history woven in that is relevant to how they perceive the world. Samantha, for most of the story, feels a lot of pressure to figure out how to contact her dead best friend in the “other world.” She simply can’t believe that it isn’t possible for them to connect across space and time. As she deals with the issue of closure that accompanies grief, the story takes an unusual, yet welcome, twist.

By the end of the story, after all the trials and decisions the characters must face, you feel closure when the story ends and a very satisfying feeling that they will, indeed, be okay.

Quote: “Could Isabel not really get how abominable it would be to vacation without Mina? It wasn’t the first time we’d broached the subject.” Page 18

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