With a rare combination of emotional insight, narrative power, and lyrical grace, Justin Cronin transforms the simple story of a dying man’s last wish into a rich tapestry of family love.
On an evening in late summer, the great financier Harry Wainwright, nearing the end of his life, arrives at a rustic fishing camp in a remote area of Maine. He comes bearing two things: his wish for a day of fishing in a place that has brought him solace for thirty years, and an astonishing bequest that will forever change the lives of those around him.
From the battlefields of Italy to the turbulence of the Vietnam era, to the private battles of love and family, The Summer Guest reveals the full history of this final pilgrimage and its meaning for four people: Jordan Patterson, the haunted young man who will guide Harry on his last voyage out; the camp’s owner Joe Crosby, a Vietnam draft evader who has spent a lifetime “trying to learn what it means to be brave”; Joe’s wife, Lucy, the woman Harry has loved for three decades; and Joe and Lucy’s daughter Kate—the spirited young woman who holds the key to the last unopened door to the past.
As their stories unfold, secrets are revealed, courage is tested, and the bonds of love are strengthened. And always center stage is the place itself—a magical, forgotten corner of New England where the longings of the human heart are mirrored in the wild beauty of the landscape.
Intimate, powerful, and profound, The Summer Guest reveals Justin Cronin as a storyteller of unique and marvelous talent. It is a book to treasure.
A Maine fishing camp serves as the physical and emotional center for an extended circle of family and friends in this charming novel spanning three generations. On a single day in late summer, the rich financier Harry Wainwright, now dying of cancer, visits the camp he has frequented for more than 30 years. His visit prompts a flood of memories for each of the characters: Joe, who inherited the camp from his father but spent years away when his father convinced him to evade the Vietnam draft; Lucy, Joe's wife, whose love for her husband and the camp is intertwined with her love for Harry; Jordan, a young fishing guide who finds solace and purpose at the camp; and Lucy's daughter, Kate, an aspiring medical student whose presence links all of the characters. Each character tells a portion of their back-story in alternating chapters, and as the events of the day progress, the reader begins to understand the sources of the complex tension underlying each relationship. Chronologically, the story begins with the arrival of Joe's father to the camp just after World War II, and the whole novel has something of a 1940s feel about it: the bedrock realities of family and place remain constant in spite of the vicissitudes of emotions and events, and the voices of these Mainers have a lovely calm that evokes the timeless summer place. Though the pieces of the story fit almost too neatly and everyone ends up exactly where they should, the novel's recognition of human frailty and nobility rings true, as does its faithful recreation of a place outside the storms of history.