Summer Light

Summer Light

by Roxana Robinson
     
 

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Roxana Robinson's great gift for the telling detail and strong sense of the emotional shoals lurking just beneath even the calmest surface have inspired comparisons to literary greats like John Cheever, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. In her first novel, we meet Laura, a 29-year-old wife, mother, sister, friend, lover, and erstwhile photographer whose life is…  See more details below

Overview

Roxana Robinson's great gift for the telling detail and strong sense of the emotional shoals lurking just beneath even the calmest surface have inspired comparisons to literary greats like John Cheever, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. In her first novel, we meet Laura, a 29-year-old wife, mother, sister, friend, lover, and erstwhile photographer whose life is painfully out of focus. A month's vacation on the Maine coast with her son, her lover, Ward, and her sister's family is supposed to be an idyllic period of sustenance and calm, but for Laura, who believes that "entropy governed the world, the universe, and the dinner hour," it turns into the ultimate test of her ability to trust herself and others.

With trademark intensity and a deft touch for character and place, Robinson creates a perceptive, believable, and gently humorous portrait of an individual "waiting for something that would set her life in order." Laura is as much a study of light and shadow as the photographs she takes. Beautiful but insecure, talented but unwilling to take risks, loved but unable to make a commitment, she is paralyzed by fear and locked into a stasis that Ward is no longer willing to accept. "You don't dare take a stand on anything," he tells her. “You're so terrified of failure you don't dare do anything.” When her estranged husband arrives for a weekend visit, however, the emotional collision rocks Laura's inaction, causing a tiny shake of the kaleidoscope that creates a vastly different pattern. The image is razor sharp at last: "As though she were changing lenses, as though she had suddenly discovered another light source," she sees that her life is her own. That new understanding empowers her to make a symbolic -- and a literal -- leap of faith that saves her own life and the lives of those she loves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The satisfactions of Robinson's first novel are many: her fluid prose and graceful construction; her sure sense of character and place; her skill in depicting the texture of daily life as well as the turning points in relationships; and her sympathetic understanding of the stresses within a family. Laura is almost 30, and ``treading water.'' Not quite divorced from her chronically unfaithful, immature husband Nat, she is living with but unable to commit to her lover Ward, terrified of failing her four-year-old son Sam, and equally afraid of being a failure as a photographer. Laura, Ward and Sam are spending the summer in Northeast Harbour, Maine, sharing a house with her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Richie (Laura's first love) and their two adolescent daughters. Long since convinced that she is ``worthless,'' a consequence of her rebellion against her stern, moralizing Quaker parents, Laura makes excuses for her inability to decide her future. When she allows Nat to fly up one weekend to see Sam, she unwittingly precipitates a crisis in her relationship with Ward, but her anguish leads to insights and she finally sees her own behavior patterns clearly and begins to free herself from crippling inertia. In compact but elegant prose that conveys the essence of somnolent summer days by the sea, Robinson moves her narrative to a moment of near-tragedy, in which Laura's tentative choices become luminously clear. This book should plant Robinson squarely on the literary map. (June)
Library Journal
$16.95. f Dramatic, fast-paced, boasting both engaging characters and an optimistic resolution of its conflict, this well-written novel will make good summer reading. It explores contemporary family life and relationships on a number of levels as its protagonist, Laura, seeks to come to terms with her roles as woman, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, wife, and lover. On vacation in Maine with her small son, her lover, and her sister's family, and contending with a visit from her estranged husband, Laura is forced to evaluate these various, often-conflicting roles. Though the novel is undemanding, and its solutions seem glib and easy, the pleasant style and the author's control of her subject recommend it. Elizabeth Guiney Sandvick, North Hennepin Community Coll., Minneapolis
From the Publisher

"Robinson's writing is almost flawless. She is a sharp observer . . . [who] goes after emotions we want to understand – fragile love, nervous lust, coldness, and regret." —Newsday

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780874517385
Publisher:
University Press of New England
Publication date:
08/01/1995
Series:
Hardscrabble Books-Fiction of New England
Pages:
212
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)

Meet the Author

Roxana Robinson is author of the short story collection A Glimpse of Scarlet (1991) and a best-selling biography, Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life (1989, 1999), among other works. A resident of New York City, her stories have appeared in Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, Harper's, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere

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