BOOKS CHECKED OUT | By JANET CLAPP
Summer retreats create strong emotions, whether the places are camps for children crowded in cabins and singing around the campfire with s’mores, or family cottages where the generations gather year after year. Friendships are formed and memories are made. Over time, we may look back with a misty nostalgia at those long summer days and nights in the places that are homes away from home.
Sleepaway: The Girls of Summer and the Camps They Love
By Laurie Susan Kahn
Flip through the pages of this browsable book and you’ll see black-and-white photos of yesteryear. See the girls at Camp Farnsworth in Thetford, Vermont all wearing white gowns, and the girls at Camp Illahee in North Carolina dressed up as rabbits, ducks, and other animals. Look at the lakeside good-bye hug at Camp Aloha in Vermont. Read the poems, camp songs, letters home, and memories of attendees from girls’ camps around the country. “Camp was all about freedom: being free of my parents and brother and hometown, being free to express myself through sports and music and adventure. But most of all, camp gave me the freedom to connect to myself and to other girls. Camp was the place where I was treated as an individual while belonging to a neighborhood of friends into which I was 100 percent integrated, 24/7.”
Wish You Were Here
By Stewart O’Nan
Three generations of the Maxwell clan meet for one last summer on Lake Chautauqua now that the family cottage has been sold. Novelist O’Nan draws detailed descriptions of a place filled with accumulated clutter and memories. “The water here was soft and stunk of sulphur. It made her remember swimming in the lake and hanging their suits on the back line, thirty, almost forty years ago, when the children were little. All those summers were gone, but how sharply — just now — she could recall them. She wanted to inhabit them again, those long August days, the croquet and wiffle-ball games and campfires, skiing behind the boat. It was why they came here every year, she supposed, this feeling of eternity and shelter.” Life and complicated family dynamics are portrayed from numerous perspectives: grandmother, mother, child, sister, brother, husband, wife and in-law.
The Water Dancers
By Terry Gamble
Rachel, an orphaned Odawa Indian cared for by nuns, works as a maid for the wealthy March family at their summer home on Lake Michigan. “Soon, the lap of waves became breaths, slow and deep, her eyes suddenly heavy with the drone of insects. She could imagine she was someplace else. The sun arced over her as she slid into sleep, dreaming of dark, watery places where only fish could live.” In 1945 Woody, a wounded soldier addicted to painkillers, returns home, and Rachel is assigned to be his caregiver. A relationship develops, but their paths diverge because of prejudices and their disparate worlds. The story skips ahead to 1956 then 1970 when Rachel’s son Ben returns from Vietnam and the world has changed.
By Sarah Addison Allen
In this novel, Kate, widowed for a year, wakes up out of her grief enough to take her young daughter to Lost Lake in Georgia, where she spent one childhood summer with her great-aunt, Eby. “For years, she’d only had vague impressions, but very real emotions, about Lost Lake. She remembered feeling happy here. She could remember that very clearly.” Eby, widowed long ago, reluctantly plans to sell the dilapidated resort. Of those longtime guests and friendly community members assembled together one last time, Kate is not the only one who suffers loneliness. But as Kate’s daughter Devin discovers, there’s a little bit of magic and love at the lake.
By Michael Eisner
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner writes fondly about Keewaydin, a summer camp in Salisbury, Vermont. He alternates the past and present as he reminisces about his own adventures, his family’s ties to the camp, the director known as Waboos, and the experiences of two underprivileged children The Eisner Foundation sent to Keewaydin. He references the lessons that Keewaydin teaches, including helping each other, winning fairly, and being a good loser. “To the uninitiated, camp may sound like one grandiose cliché — teamwork, brotherhood, helping the other guy. But clichés are often constructed on truths from the past. Away from the modern comforts and parental safety of home, summer camp may seem like boot camp to some, with its lack of privacy, wilderness rituals, mosquito bites, freezing lake water…. When you’ve been a camper, though, the planned deprivations are fun, exciting, the stuff from which character is built. As I’ve gotten older, they make more and more sense. Camp taught me a lot of little things, and the experiences accumulated into some big ’stuff,’ stuff that builds backbone and teaches lessons that keep popping up in adulthood.”
The Rutland Free Library has all the books above and many more seasonal reads for these long hot days. What’s your favorite book about summer retreats?
Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.