"Fierro doesn't just observe, she knows. Like all great novelists, she gives us the world." - Amy Bloom, bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us
It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island--dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island's leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.
It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall—only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family—returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in “The Castle,” the island's grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.
Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island's bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island—and its patriarch, the Colonel—be to blame?
As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie’s and Brooks’ passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.
Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders; a plotting aged matriarch and her husband, a demented military patriarch; and a troubled young boy, each seeking his or her own refuge, escape and revenge, The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.
Something is rotten in the heart of Avalon Island, home to Grudder Aviation, where the devastation wrought by the 1992 invasion of gypsy moths underscores the tension boiling to the surface of the islanders' lives. Intermingled with scientific data about gypsy moths, Fierro's (Cutting Teeth) riveting second novel unfolds through the eyes of multiple generations. Social doyenne Veronica is struggling to hide her husband's dementia and protect his domineering image as "The Colonel" (president of Grudder Aviation) while keeping her terminal cancer and his long-time abuse of her a secret. Maddie, her granddaughter, traverses the slippery terrain of adolescence with its hormones and fearsome popularity entanglements. Dom, Maddie's younger brother, is by turns ashamed and bewildered by his homosexuality. Leslie, renegade adult daughter of a rival prominent family, returns to the island on a mission to bring Grudder down, while her husband, Jules, a Harvard-educated African American, tries to navigate the challenge of bringing up his teenage son, Brooks, and four-year-old daughter, Eva, in the lily-white enclave of the Avalon upper crust. Can the budding romance between Brooks and Maddie survive against the backdrop of racism, class rivalries, changing social mores, and Leslie's desperation for revenge? That question is poignantly answered in a powerful story showcasing a dizzying spectrum of relationships from the deeply destructive to the supportive and loving.