While I have been doing quite well following my own Summer Reading Schedule, Grand Central Publishing sent along this book, and with the title of The Long, Hot Summer, how could I not add it to my summer reading list? I must say I am so very pleased it was included because, The Long, Hot Summer hit everything in my wheelhouse of reading love! I have been hitting reading gold this summer, and The Long, Hot Summer was definitely no exception!
Nine Lives. Four Generations. One Family. The MacEntees are no ordinary family.
Right? You’re already feeling it aren’t you? That’s the line that piqued my interest and had me eagerly accepting this one to read. A multi-generational, Irish family story told by each of the nine members of the MacEntee clan, all beginning with the matriarch, Deidre. From there we hear from the daughters, sons-in-laws, grandchildren, the son, the father, and finishing off where we started, with Deidre.
“The story of their lives was all there. Sandwiched between two battered green leather covers, on a hundred pages of charcoal paper, a bulging patchwork of newsprint, starting on the first page with the engagement notice Deidre had snipped out of The Irish Times six decades ago, the paper tobacco-coloured now with age, the typeface a faintly quaint relic of a bygone age.”
Deidre begins telling the story of the MacEntee family, describing her own life and how she planned on setting herself apart by being different and unusual from her sisters’ bland and boring lives of marriage, children, maybe a new hat to mark special occasions, no, this was not going to be her, and Deidre was determined to be different. She set out to become a star on the Irish stage but met her husband, Manus, only one week into her new life and married six quick weeks later. Three children later, Deidre was never really able to fully capture that life on stage she so desperately wanted. Now eighty, Deidre is flipping through the family album, revealing one major family issue and why her husband, Manus left her all those years before. Deidre is looking now at the engagement photo lovingly, and notes how “camp” Manus looked back then, and how could she not know he was gay? Manus left Deidre many years before for a much younger man, and now after learning she has cataracts, she thinks of planning a party for herself. She will inform her family her plans for exiting life on her own terms and with her faculties all intact. This will be her way of taking back some of the control she felt she lost when losing her husband to another man.
The stories of the MacEntee family each reveal how they are a family like so many: dysfunctional, flawed and scarred. Every single one of them, in their own way, in their own right. It makes for delicious and glorious storytelling! You know it’s setting up for highly interesting reading experience when the patriarch flees the family in such an astonishing and scandalous manner!
In their own chapters, the lives of Deidre and Manus’ daughter Alma, her ex-husband Mick, the second daughter Acushla, her daughter Connie, and Acushla’s husband, Liam are told. Then there is Alma and Mick’s daughter Nora, and the patriarch of the MacEntee clan – Manus. Ending these family stories is their son Macdera, before returning to Deidre and her planned party – which of course doesn’t go as she thought it would play out, and it is only after reading first through everyone’s lives that you’ll discover why.
I won’t go into detail for each of their individual stories – that would ruin the enjoyment! Just know they are all excellent, very strong, well-written and all consuming. You’ll love the MacEntee’s, flaws and all. They’ll infuriate you, break your heart, make you laugh and maybe even cry. They are all so broken, but they will show how they pull through it, pull themselves together, maybe they’ve done this through reinvention or by seeking redemption from their former selves. Alma, Macdera and Deidre were my favourites, but I absolutely could not stop reading about them all. The Long, Hot Summer is all about watching the MacEntee’s unravel and attempt to pull themselves back together over the course of one long, hot summer. I highly recommend! Just writing this up made me truly want to go back and re-read this one! I read it on my Kobo (honestly, this was the first e-book read in months and months – I kind of missed my Kobo!) but if I find this one in paper I will buy it, for certain.
Thank you again Grand Central Publishing for sending this one our way. The Long, Hot Summer is definitely one that earns the stamp of “Literary Hoarders Recommended Read”!