Memories of Summer [NOOK Book]


By the author of the Newbery Honor book Belle Prater's Boy

It is the mid-1950s, and Lyrics familys dream is finally coming true -- they are moving from the backwoods of southwest Virginia to Flint, Michigan, where her father hopes to get an assembly-line job for a car manufacturer. Thirteen-year-old Lyric has always been close to and admired her older sister, Summer, who is pretty and popular. But in their new hometown, Summer unexpectedly ...
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Memories of Summer

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By the author of the Newbery Honor book Belle Prater's Boy

It is the mid-1950s, and Lyrics familys dream is finally coming true -- they are moving from the backwoods of southwest Virginia to Flint, Michigan, where her father hopes to get an assembly-line job for a car manufacturer. Thirteen-year-old Lyric has always been close to and admired her older sister, Summer, who is pretty and popular. But in their new hometown, Summer unexpectedly and drastically changes. She becomes remote, speaks gibberish, stops taking care of her appearance, wont go to high school, and then seems to have hallucinations. Lyric and her father try to cope with the devastating effects of Summers mental illness, but, sadly, there is no bringing the old Summer back. Ruth White has written a heart-wrenching novel which, despite the sad and serious subject matter, offers readers humor and hope and most of all love.

In 1955, thirteen-year-old Lyric finds her whole life changing when her family moves from the hills of Virginia to a town in Michigan and her older sister Summer begins descending into mental illness.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
White's (Belle Prater's Boy) familiar territory of Appalachia in the 1950s is the vividly drawn springboard to this tender, lyrical novel about mental illness. Sisters Summer and Lyric Compton are 16 and 13, respectively, when their Poppy decides to leave the sooty coal mines of rural Virginia for the booming automobile factories of Flint, Mich. Told in Lyric's evocative drawl, the story of their migration contains enough careful observations and insights to carry the tale all by itself. But it is Summer's descent into schizophrenia that emerges as the focal point. Acknowledging that Summer "always did have funny ways about her" (since childhood, Summer has been so afraid of electricity that she won't turn on a light), Lyric and Poppy are not quick to act when Summer's behavior and language grow more and more irrational. But as Poppy gets a job with Chevrolet and moves the family from a squalid apartment to a house of their own, and as Lyric makes friends and begins to say "ree-al-lee" and "yous guys" instead of "no foolin'" and "y'all," Summer's illness encroaches on their lives in an increasingly demanding and dangerous manner. Summer's disintegration inspires confusion, anger and palpable frustration in Lyric before she finally understands her sister's plight. The result is a wise and thoughtful novel, painfully well realized and gently revealed. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Lyric and her sister, Summer, were raised by their father, Poppy in the hills of Southwest Virginia. In 1995, prospects of a better life draw Poppy and his family to Flint, Michigan. Lyric is 13 and Summer is 16. Lyric and Poppy adjust to life in a northern city, but Summer, who has always had 'peculiar' ways, does not. As Summer's behavior becomes increasingly strange, even dangerous, Lyric and Poppy try to help and protect her. When Summer is diagnosed as schizophrenic, Poppy and Lyric are forced to institutionalize her. Lyric is left with memories of the happy childhood she spent with Summer, no hope that Summer will ever recover from her illness, and compassion for people who are different. This sensitive story, filled with family love, provides glimpses into mental illness, Appalachia, and Northern prejudices. White perceptively portrays the bittersweet memories of a young girl who bravely and honestly handles a difficult situation. Genre: Mental Illness/Sisters 2000, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 135p
From The Critics
It is the summer of 1955 when Poppy moves his daughters from the quiet, hometown hills of Virginia to Flint, Michigan. It's been ten years since their mother's death and nearly that since his own father's death in the coal mines. Poppy eyes a more stable and prosperous future in the automobile industry. But, their new home presents a host of challenges to 13-year-old Lyric and her 16-year-old sister, Summer. Ruth White registers Lyric's narrative voice with moments of teen-age exuberance at making friends and acute embarrassment at her sister's increasingly peculiar and public behavior. Although Lyric and her rock-solid father would like to believe that Summer simply has trouble adjusting, their vigilance of her too soon prove an inadequate measure to protect Summer from herself. The danger she poses to others' physical well-being finally tips the scales in their agonizing decision to hospitalize her. Sadness at the befuddling loss of her caring, beautiful, gentle sister to the painful spiral of mental illness punctuates Lyric's story. Yet, it is the family's laughter, their spirited singing, and their deeply abiding love for Summer as a complex individual that bless the novel. In Memories of Summer, Ruth White returns to a time and sensibility familiar to readers of her previous books: Belle Prater's Boy (Farrar, 1996) and Sweet Creek Holler (Sunburst, 1992). She again creates uniquely resilient characters who, like Summer herself, will be long remembered. 2000, Farrar, Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Cathryn M. Mercier — The Five Owls, January/February 2001 (Vol. 15 No. 3)
To quote KLIATT's July 2000 review of the hardcover edition: In this bittersweet tale about living with mental illness, Summer is not a season, but a pretty 16-year-old girl. She is the sister of 13-year-old Lyric, the story's narrator, who tells about how they moved with their father from rural Virginia to Flint, Michigan in 1955. Their mother is dead and the three are very close; their father hopes to improve the family's lot by finding a job at General Motors. Despite their poverty Lyric is excited by the move and eventually settles happily into school, but life is harder for Summer. She "always did have funny ways about her," Lyric notes—a fear of electricity, a terror of dogs, a tendency to rock her body when she is upset and to hear voices—and the move north seems to make her symptoms worse. Gradually Summer descends into full-blown schizophrenia. Lyric and her father do their best to care for her, but when she finally becomes a danger to herself and others she must be institutionalized. In often-folksy language (e.g., "Drek'ly the party broke up"), Lyric tells about what it's like to live with someone who is dearly loved but terribly disturbed. This affecting novel by the author of the Newbery Honor book Belle Prater's Boy and other YA novels about mountain folks is dedicated to the memory of her own sister, and she succeeds in conveying what it's like to live with a family member who is mentally ill. There is gentle humor here as well as pathos, and the tale is simply but movingly told. An ALA Best Book for YAs. Includes a reading guide. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Random House, Laurel-Leaf, 186p.,
— PaulaRohrlick
Children's Literature
When thirteen-year-old Lyric moves from Glory Bottom, Virginia to Flint, Michigan in 1955, she learns that "kids are like chickens--they'll peck you to death if you're different." So she adjusts, discovering that tennis shoes are called sneakers, and that "tarnation" is as foreign as "y'all." What Lyric can't adjust to are the differences and embarrassments caused by Summer, her bright and beautiful sister, who is descending inescapably into mental illness. Readers, even those weary of some of the painfully serious novels being published now, will be rewarded by this one--it delivers joy with the sadness. While Lyric and her father struggle to keep Summer out of the state asylum, the strain in their lives is kept in perspective, both literally and figuratively, by harmony. Time, place, and backcountry language all shine with immediacy and authenticity. And Lyric, whether laughing and singing a cappella with her sister, or having nightmares about letting her go, whether remembering Glory Bottom's wild roses and ball games in the road, or hiding razorblades in Flint, is as real as her spirit is memorable. This book is a winner. 2000, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 10 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-In the 1950s, Lyric's widowed father moves her and her sister, Summer, from Glory Bottom, VA, to Michigan, hoping to better their life. Like other rural Southerners, 13-year-old Lyric and her family initially find adjustment to urban life difficult, but Lyric has an even worse problem. Her beautiful older sister has progressed from being afraid of electricity and dogs to speaking incoherently with nonexistent people and disfiguring herself. Lyric shares the care of Summer with her father, leaving her with little time for after-school activities and a dread that her new friends might find out about her sister's mental illness. When Summer becomes consumed with setting fires in the house, Lyric and her father know they must make some changes; after she injures Lyric, they are forced to institutionalize her. The main characters are well drawn and Lyric's first-person narration remains true to her age and background. White has beautifully reconstructed the period with descriptive references to music, clothing, housing, and social attitudes. Lacking the humor of her Belle Prater's Boy (1996), this book is closer in tone to White's Weeping Willow (1994, both Farrar). A marvelous re-creation of time and place and a poignant story that has much to say about compassion.-Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When 13-year-old Lyric and 16-year-old Summer move from Glory Bottom, Virginia, to Flint, Michigan, in 1955, life changes for them in ways no one would have expected. Their father is seeking a better way of life for them, trying to get a job in an automobile factory, and they must adjust to the ways of the city, so different from the small town they've known. As Summer's already strange behavior moves into episodes of extreme paranoia, Lyric becomes her primary caretaker, switching roles with the sister who has lovingly taken care of her since their mother died. Summer's swift and certain descent into mental illness-her first impressions of disappearing and losing her shadow, along with attempts at self-mutilation using razors and matches-are documented in Lyric's poignant words. Added to Lyric's burden is her understanding that she cannot allow her new friends to know that she has this strange and difficult sister. When home care becomes impossible, heart-rending choices must be made as must acceptance of the inevitable-the state hospital. White (Belle Prater's Boy, not reviewed, etc.) portrays Summer's illness and Lyric's devotion to her with her customary compassion and caring sensitivity. This is a thoughtful view into a time and place, as well as a loving commentary on the strength of family bonds. Memorable. (Fiction. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429936583
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 734,056
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • File size: 142 KB

Meet the Author

Ruth White's previous books include Weeping Willow, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and Sweet Creek Holler, an ALA Notable Book. She lives in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.

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Read an Excerpt

"Try to get her to take a bath, why don'cha, Lyric?" Poppy said to me as he was going out the door to work the next Saturday.

For the entire week Summer had not reappeared. Only her body was there and it would not bathe or dress or comb its hair. It stunk, and it stayed in bed most all the time, staring at the ceiling.

"I'll try, Poppy."

But when I suggested a bath, Summer said in her tiny voice, "I can't. Water washes me away."

"No, no, Summer, I said. "That's silly. Water does not wash you away."

Finally, I managed to coax her into the bathroom by telling her that Poppy wanted his little girls to be squeaky clean. That took us both back to our childhood in Glory Bottom when we were waiting for Poppy to come home from the mines and spend some time with us.

"Sometimes I miss the hills," she said softly, and I knew her wandering mind had returned, but I didn't know for how long.

I helped her ease into the tub of hot, soapy water, and I washed her hair. Then I sat on the john and talked to her while she relaxed in the suds.

"Would you like to go back home?" I asked her.

"No!" she came back in a flash. "If you look at the world as a house, Lyric, Glory Bottom is the crawl space."

I laughed a genuine laugh then. Yeah, I reckoned the real Summer had made a brief visit. Always the clever one. And she smiled a genuine smile.

Later I helped her dry and wrap herself up in a robe. As she wiped the steam away from the mirror over the sink I came up behind her and our eyes met in the reflection.

"See, Lyric? I'm fading away," she said softly. "See? I'm almost gone."

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Reading Group Guide

1. What is special about the relationship between Lyric and Summer? How does it change during the course of the novel?

2. Lyric dreams of buying lavender dresses and lace curtains for her move to Michigan. What does this tell you about Lyric’s character and her life?

3. “Even though the teachers at Zimmerman Junior High didn’t know my family tree clear back to its roots in England the way the teachers in Virginia did, they treated me like I was a real person anyways. Some of them even made me feel special.” (p. 25) Discuss the role teachers play in Lyric’s life and how she feels about them.

4. 4. Lyric learns from reading Mark Twain “that it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid, than to open it and remove any doubt.” (p. 47) When does Lyric follow this advice? When were some times you should have done the same?

5. Lyric is very poor by our standards, but her life is rich in other areas. What are they? Discuss the things that really matter in your life.

6. Lyric is a teenager with a single parent and a sick sister she has to watch over. Any person would be overwhelmed by such responsibility. How does Lyric cope with this?

7. Lyric dreams wolves are chasing her and Summer. Lyric escapes, but she can’t save Summer. She has to let go to save herself. Judging by the dream, how does Lyric feel about the situation with Summer?

8. 8. Mama tells Poppy why she named her first child Summer: “She’ll grow up just a’sparklin’ with warmth and laughter, and the world will be a brighter place with her in it.” (p. 3) Discuss the irony of Summer’s name. Itcan be said that Summer burns so brightly that she burns out. What do you think about this statement?

9. The words from one of the songs Lyric listens to–Summer turns to winter/And the present disappears (p. 49)–can be seen as a metaphor for Summer’s life. Discuss the meaning of this metaphor. How does it relate to what Summer tells Lyric about her mental illness? What does this indicate about Summer’s knowledge of herself?

10. “Summer always did have funny ways about her, but I got so used to them, they seemed normal to me.” (p. 7) What are some of the odd things Summer does? Why don’t Lyric and Poppy recognize this behavior as mental illness?

11. Read aloud the scene in chapter 16 in which Summer unexpectedly shows up during the tryouts for The Mikado. Talk about the wide range of emotions Lyric feels–from anger to sadness to grief to a sense of responsibility.

12. Lyric’s family has roots in the Virginia hills that go back many generations. Yet when they are given the chance to move north, away from their home, they jump at it. Why are they so eager to move? Discuss the meaning of home in the book and in your life. How do you feel about the place where you live?

13. Seven months after the family has moved from Glory Bottom, Lyric is hard pressed to remember the faces of her kinfolk and the names of her friends. She muses that her new life has made the past fade away. Is this process inevitable? What are some of the ways people can keep continuity in their lives?

14. “‘I’ll not lie to you, Lyric, ’ Dr. Solomon said seriously. ‘You won’t ever again see that pretty, vivacious teenager who was your sister.’ He didn’t have to take away all of my hope. At least he could have said, ‘Hang on.’ So I didn’t like Dr. Solomon after that, ’cause he was the man with the watch on, and he had told me the right time.” (p. 132)

What does Lyric mean by this expression? When has someone told you a truth you weren’t prepared to hear? Discuss whether we are better off with a false sense of hope or the truth.

Discussion questions prepared by Clifford Wohl, educational consultant.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 35 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2013


    I think it must be pretty good, i bet if you liked this one you will like the Giver by lois

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Good short story.

    This story is Lyrical like the given name of the main character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2012

    Nefara de nile

    Hey guys

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012


    Passas comodas?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2012


    Hey josie im back.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2012


    I gtgtb. Cya!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2012


    Packed up her stuff. And grabbe crey.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012


    Is this yhe summer camp?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2012


    Im back

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    Ella the Rabbot

    Disrespect me, i'm pathetic. Leave me alone.. *She sang some of No More English by Miku Hatsune. At the moment, she unpacked her messenger bag.*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012


    Hiya im back

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2012

    To molly from greg. A note

    Dear molly, me and my sister are keavig this rp. I am not dumping you. But i know an active human rp at EDEN all results got to forth page and look around for a post saying dawn and midnights house. - i love u. Greg

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2012

    My sister too :(

    I have been going through the same thing as Lyric. My sister is thr same as Summer. This book helped me, but hurt me too. It predicted my sisters not so happy ending. I suppose i needed to accept that i can't bring her back. My sister is turning eighteen in 2 months and going down-hill rapidly. Thank you Ruth White for giving me the acceptance I for so long needed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2008

    Couldn't Put It Down!!

    The book was outstanding! I read one page and after that i couldn't put it down! There were some challenging words but it did not distract me from how great it was! This is a must read for historical fiction!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2008

    A reviewer

    It was an emotional ride of mental and heart-felt love in this book because it is hard what Summer did and I never wanted to put the book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    Memories of Summer

    There are many excellent books in the world. Books that have plot- twists, books that you just can¿t put down, books that keep you on the edge of your seat wanting more and are sad when it ends. Then there are books like Memories of Summer. Memories of Summer by Ruth White is an unsuspenseful, book with a plot written about in so many other books. Memories of Summer is a watered down version of a girl whose sister is a psychopath. Memories of Summer is about a girl, Lyric who lived in Virginia then moved to Flint with her father and sister. Lyric¿s sister Summer is schizophrenic, but by moving to Flint Summer¿s schizophrenia was triggered and Summer¿s brain went hay-wire. Now Lyric can not understand what her sister has become and has only her cherished, childhood memories to remember Summer by. Memories of Summer is the most unsuspenseful book I have read. When ever did something dangerous like try to light things on fire, you thought something extreme would happen, but Lyric or her father would be there just in time. If it was not said in the book that summer was psycho. You might not even really know because the author made Summer have mild symptoms of schizophrenia. The only thing that gave the feeling of Summer¿s schizophrenia was her talking to invisible people. I think if Summer had it would show how difficult schizophrenias are. Then you can see how drastically changed Lyric¿s life would be with out Summer or have had the story told in the prespective of the father and how his daughter is hurting Lyric and herself. Memories of Summer has a plot that many other authors have written about which makes judge harder. Family Planning, Stuck In Neutral, Like Normal People, and What¿s Wrong With Timmy, are all examples of books with a person or people with some kind of mental illness. Each one has something different about it Stuck in Neutral is told from the perspective a child with C.P. What¿s Wrong With Timmy is about a girl making friends with a mentally retarded person. Living with a person with a mental illness isn¿t very strange because in reality there are many people who live with somebody or are related to someone with some kind of illness, not many people try to be friends with people like that. This makes books with settings like that intriguing. No one really knows what is happening in a mentally retarded person¿s mind. This makes Stuck in Neutral such an interesting book. Memories Of Summer isn¿t a book that has you think that this is different. It is similar to many books with out a special characteristic that makes it distinct from all the others. Memories Of Summer is a disappointing book. If Ruth White had added some emotion to make the reader feel really emotional, not just feel bad for Lyric but feel bad for Summer or their father, who has to realize his daughter is dangerous not to herself, but everyone.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    One of the best books i have ever read!!!!!!

    This book is full of feeling.I really felt sorry for Summer as she had to suffer.The family went threw so many hard times. I could'nt put it down it was so intrusting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2005


    this book was sooo good. I read it a couple a years ago. It's the kind of book that when it ends, you keep thinking about it. This is a book i will always remeber, and when someone says, 'whats a good book you've read' i think, 'memories of summer'!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2004

    The Best Book I Ever Read!!!!

    Ruth white has always been a favorite author of mine and when I saw this book I just had to buy it. I could never put the book down. This was the most enjoyable book I have ever read. This book is about a girl who is schizophrenic and her sister and the obstacles they go through. Summer (the schizophrenic) started out just like everyone else but soon it gets worse and something happens that will change both the girls lives forever.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews

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