After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.
Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.
Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door.
I am not 100% sure what I expected when I picked up my copy of The Last Days of Summer because it’s setting isn’t one that I normally go for but the story appealed and I wanted to take a bit of a step outside of my comfort zone. What I ended up with was a beautifully written story that had me caring about the central characters, including Jasper, a man I shouldn’t have liked at all given his past.
There are a lot of inner monologues in this book, which helps you get to know and understand each person – Lizzie, the sister whose life is harder than she ever thought it might be; Katie, the teenage daughter who just wants to be loved by her hometown boyfriend; Joanne, 11 years old, innocent and trusting; and Jasper, newly released from prison for a vicious crime which he says he isn’t sorry for.
Given this lack of remorse, it is hard to understand why I liked him but I think it is because of the way he speaks of being home, of how he starts to care for Joanne, showing a human side. All Jasper wants is to be free, to live his life. The problem is that life is now being lived in the small, closed, town he grew up in. It’s where his victim lives, where her family live, and where the townspeople can’t forgive. With nowhere else to go, he hopes he can stick it out but it is pretty clear early on that something bad is going to happen, it’s just a question of what and when.
I can’t say I know much about life on the prairie or small town America but here it is described as both beautiful, with fields of gold, and also narrow minded, with a preacher who talks about forgiveness not meaning people need to forgive. I felt the heat, the lack of opportunity, the need to conform, and the pressure rising over what was basically a week or so. When the tension broke, I was surprised by the “what and when” but maybe I shouldn’t have been because there was an inevitability to it. It wasn’t pleasant to read but it did fit the story and it was a fitting ending.
My only complaint would be that it was too fast. Till then the book had been slow in pace, which fitted the heat filled landscape, with time spent getting to know each person as the story alternated between each one. Then suddenly it was over and I was left a little bereft. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. The fact that I felt this way, though, is probably a good sign that this was a good book. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by Ronan. Liked it a lot.
Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.
Also, this post is scheduled as I am away. As always, I would appreciate your comments but I won’t be able to reply for a few weeks