Cathy Holton, author of the popular Beach Trip, returns with an intriguing and mysterious tale of dark deeds and family secrets in a small Southern town.
After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend Will Fraser and his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn. Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall, while working on her first novel.
But Woodburn is anything but quiet: Ancient feuds lurk just beneath its placid surface, and modern-day rivalries emerge as Ava finds herself caught between the competing attentions of Will and his black-sheep cousin Jake. Fascinated by the family’s impressive history—their imposing house filled with treasures, and their mingling with literary lions Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner—Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the Woodburns’ legacy. Putting aside her planned novel, she turns her creative attentions to the eccentric and tragic clan, a family with more skeletons (and ghosts) in their closets than anyone could possibly imagine. As Ava struggles to write the true story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own.
Holton's (Beach Trip) fourth novel is a carefully fitted nesting doll containing the secrets of one Southern family. Throughout Ava Drabrowski's growing up, her mother constantly kept her on the move, so the adult Ava enjoys her steady paycheck and a place to call home. But when her mother dies, Ava accepts an offer from Will, a college friend, to spend the summer in Tennessee with his elderly aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn. It will be a chance to mourn, but also an opportunity to begin the novel Ava wants to write. The South feels like a different world to her, with its meticulous manners, taboo topics, and five o'clock "Toddy Time," and Ava's favorite taboo topic is the aristocratic Woodburns themselves but nobody wants to talk about the past. No one, that is, except Jake, Will's estranged cousin, to whom Ava is immediately drawn. What she learns gives her the makings of a great novel, but she also learns that some secrets are better left buried. Ava's struggles with her own past make her a wonderfully grounded narrator for a snapshot of the South as it is today: a region deeply tangled in its own history.
Summer a Review