Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Memories of Summer Audio

Memories of Summer Audio

Ruth White
For ages 12 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Kate Forbes
Recorded Books, 2001   ISBN: 978-0788761546

When Lyric is thirteen she, her father “Poppy,” and her older sister Summer move away from their home in a Virginia holler and go north so that Poppy can get a job in a car factory in Flint, Michigan. There is much to learn about city life and there is a new school to get used to. Though she doesn’t find it easy, Lyric begins to make friends and to feel comfortable in her new surroundings. Not so for Summer. Summer was always a little different. Back in Virginia she was always afraid of electricity and dogs and she had some strange mannerisms. But now, in Michigan, her strangeness deepens. First she refuses to go to school. Then, bit by bit she retreats into herself and soon Poppy and Lyric begin to wonder what on earth is happening to their precious sweet singing Summer.

Then one evening Summer scratches herself so badly that her family take her to the emergency room. Summer is placed in the psychiatric ward and her worried sister and father are later told that Summer has schizophrenia. When Summer is sent back home she is taking some strong drugs that make her quiet and withdrawn. Lyric and Poppy watch her with concern, wondering if she is ever going to get better, if the Summer they used to know will ever come back. Unfortunately, as Summer’s poor sick body gets used to the medication, the illness gets worse again. Summer begins to play with matches and her family can no longer leave her alone in the house for fear that she will set something on fire. Then she begins to show an interest in sharp objects. Summer’s lucid moments are fewer and fewer and Lyric begins to see that her beloved sister is truly disappearing, her sweet loving self being taken over by a paranoid young woman who is a danger to herself and to others.

Told in Lyric’s voice, in the speech of the Virginia hills, this extraordinary story will give readers a very clear, and often painful picture of what it is like to have a mentally ill person in the family. Lyric loves her sister dearly and yet, at first, she cannot help being ashamed of her. It is a feeling we can all appreciate and pity for we can see that Summer’s illness greatly affects Lyric’s life, taking away many of the pleasures that a teenage girl should be able to have. And yet, when it comes down to it, Lyric steps up and takes care of the sister who took care of her as a mother would.

There can be no doubt that this beautifully told story is often painful and disturbing but it also gives mental illness a face and a voice. Listeners will find that they are better able to understand what it is like to have such an illness and what it is like to love a person who is afflicted with it.