REVIEW: The Summer Place by Pamela Hearon
Dear Ms. Hearon:
This is the first book I’ve read of yours so I went in without any preconceptions but I met an instant stumbling block in the hero’s name. Rick Warren. Rick Warren is a pretty famous person in the U.S., author of The Purpose Driven Life (which is actually an interesting philosophical book) and is associated with several controversial views particularly those regarding homosexual marriage. It’s pretty hard to separate the real person with the fictional entity you are creating.
Rick Warren, of the book, is a former Marine who agrees to help a summer camp that is in financial troubles when his position as a deputy director of the Western Kentucky Division with the Department of Wildlife was eliminated. He will spend the summer trying to help right the fortunes of the Delaney family camp.
Summer Delaney, the flighty youngest daughter, runs her own business called Fairy Princess Parties. (I’ve been to one of these. It’s excruciatingly sugary). When she finds out her parents are in need of a female head counselor she convinces her parents this should be her job. Summer is beset with guilt. It was her idea to convince her parents to invest their money into the camp but with her father’s health declining and the downward turn in the economy, the camp and her parents’ investment is on rocky ground.
The set up is between “Mr. Stiff Neck” who is envisioning a military style boys camp and Ms. Flighty Pants who wants to spray her vision of glittery happiness all over. And unfortunately the book follows that very predictable path to the very predictable end. Mr Stiff Neck learns to loosen up a little and Ms. Flighty Pants learns that she could use a little more gravity in her life.
Summer acts impulsively during much of the book and then felt resentful when people didn’t appreciate her actions. She came off as childish to me but other readers may be more sympathetic with her character. Summer isn’t the camp director or even assistant director and she’s often kept out of the decision making regarding the camp. At one point she gets upset that she wasn’t told that during one week when campers aren’t there, they are supposed to spend the time sprucing up the camp. Summer has other plans that involve promoting the camp’s possible ties to wooly mammoth fossils found on the Kentucky Lake property where the camp is located.
Every scene seemed to be designed to make Summer looks less mature than every one from her blow up about not being informed of the planting and painting at the camp to her misguided attempts to comfort a friend who learned that her boyfriend returned from a missionary trip with a wife. The friend said that she was happier that her boyfriend married someone else rather than follow through by marrying the wrong woman but Summer couldn’t help but pointing out how much the boyfriend must have hurt the friend.
“They met shortly after he got there, and a month ago they decided they were in love.” Tara drew a ragged breath, but there were no tears. Probably none left, if her face was any evidence.
“He wanted to tell me in person. Not over the phone or in an email. When he told Mom and Dad, they thought it would be best if I came home right away instead of hearing it from someone who might call me here.”
“Oh, Tara, I’m so sorry.” Summer hugged her, and Tara’s answering embrace was strong. Her friend was holding herself together well, but that didn’t stop the anger from vibrat-ing through Summer. “The no-good bastard.”
Tara pushed away, shaking her head. “No. Louis isn’t a bastard. He’s a great guy, and I want him to be happy.”
One part of the storyline was that Summer was selfish and here she is putting her own feelings above her friend’s who was trying to be super rational and adult about the situation.
Later, there was a scene involving the characters telling stories “dressing up in costume.” She dresses as a fairy princess, another guy dresses as a ninja in all black, and Rick dresses “in Native American garb of bucksin.” So there’s that.
Rick came off as the standard wounded warrior complete with regrets, bad nightmares, and a hero complex. The ending of the book was on an odd note and addressed Rick’s PTSD. I wished that portion of the story had been moved earlier because it ended on an unfinished note. C.