Nominated for the 2020 AAMBC Literary Awards Urban Book of the Year
"Kalisha Buckhanon’s characters are both fearless and haunted, brave and burdened by the past. Speaking of Summer gives us a powerful song about what it means to survive as a woman in America." Jesmyn Ward, National Book Award winner and author of Sing, Unburied, Sing
"Novels of psychological suspense often employ unreliable narratorsthink Gone Girl or Shutter Islandbut Buckhanon, who’s also known for her work as an on-air true crime expert, employs the device not to keep readers off-balance, but rather to evoke Autumn’s fragility and raise universal questions about mental illness, racism, and love . . . Fiercely astute." Tayari Jones, O, The Oprah Magazine
“A spellbinding masterpiece, a riveting read from a young woman who has become a major American storyteller.” Sapphire, author of Push and The Kid
"Powerful." The Washington Post
"Buckhanon unravels a powerful story that examines violence, race and grief." Time
"Thrilling." Entertainment Weekly
”An absolutely riveting thriller about a woman who’s desperate to find her missing twin sister amid a criminal justice system that’s weighted against people of color. Come for Kalisha Buckhanon’s addictive writing and stay for a truly mind-blowing twist." Cosmopolitan
"Kalisha Buckhanon has created a narrative voice that’s authentic, emotionally charged and wise, but beneath the surface of the story lurks the unraveling of a life and how 'even the biological imperative to survive' can sometimes lose against the 'power of past experiences.' Buckhanon has crafted a deeply moving psychological mystery with twists that come in unhurried moments like the small notes the sisters buried in bottles in their garden shed. I’m going to be talking about Summer for a while." Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)
"This book packs a punch, so buckle in . . . [A] quick read that creatively and captivatingly approaches themes of mental health and identity." Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
"A voice for the invisible." Essence
"Will grab ahold of your mind and your heart."Elite Daily
"A dynamic and important story that will provoke needed conversations about the devastating effects of trauma and mental illness." Chicago Review of Books
"Mysterious urgency is what drives this complex and suspenseful novel, which follows 34-year-old Autumn as she sacrifices her professional and personal lifeas well as her emotional and psychological wellbeingin the pursuit of her missing sister, Summer. The story unravels in Autumn's mind, reading at times like a stream of consciousness with flashbacks woven throughout, and culminates in a powerful story of discoveryon the surface, a search for Autumn's sister, but ultimately an excavation of herself." BuzzFeed
"The novel explores issues of race, gender, and violence with nuance . . . Buckhanon understands the complexities of trauma. Her portrait of Autumn's grief, fragmented memories, and inner turmoil all synthesize current scientific research on how people cope with traumatic experiences and might seek to heal." Kirkus Reviews
"What do you do when your twin, your other half, disappears, and no one seems to notice? . . . Buckhanon (Solemn, 2016) captures Autumn’s frustration at the undervaluing of Black women, accompanied by the creeping gentrification of her Harlem neighborhood. Not only are individual Black women disappearing, so are the communities that keep them safe." Booklist (starred review)
It's been months since Autumn Spencer's twin sister, Summer, disappeared from the roof of their Harlem brownstone without a trace. Frustrated with what she sees as a lack of interest in her sister's case and worried that Summer will become another statistic, Autumn launches a one-woman crusade to figure out what happened. As she searches for Summer, Autumn fixates on news of a local serial killer and other stories of black women forgotten and abused, and her life quickly spirals out of control. Before long, the obsession is taking over, and she starts sleeping in her sister's bed and with her sister's boyfriend. The situation forces Autumn to confront uncomfortable truths until one day the reality of Summer's disappearance nearly crushes her. Broken into four seasons, the narrative begins in winter and is a slow build. Buckhanon's (Upstate) tale hits its stride sometime during the spring and doesn't slow down until the fall wrap-up. There is a frenetic and abstract quality to the writing, but it matches the state of mind of the unreliable narrator. VERDICT Readers looking for contemporary suspense with a social justice twist will appreciate the storytelling.—Vicki Briner, Broomfield, CO
Buckhanon's fourth novel (Solemn, 2016, etc.) charts a tumultuous year in the life of a black woman whose mother has died and twin sister has vanished.
It's 2015, and a grieving Autumn Spencer loses her grip on her professional and personal lives as she searches for her missing sister, Summer. While the novel explores issues of race, gender, and violence with nuance, too often awkward prose distracts from the story's gravity. At times it can be hard to believe that Autumn, a 34-year-old Midwestern transplant to Harlem, is a savvy freelance marketer and website wordsmith given the book's odd narration. At one point, Autumn describes the people who've helped her as having "emerged in my time of need as suddenly as a cold sore, in unpredictable sequence and bulk," a peculiar simile for a group of supporters. Her descent into financial insecurity is convincing as she loses clients while she's obsessing over Summer, but other storylines lack emotional resonance. Much of the novel unfolds in Autumn's disembodied thoughts, untethered from time and space, rather than in concrete scenes, especially early on. The story's main characters rarely interact in real time. Buckhanon reserves flashbacks for a particular moment in Autumn's childhood after the death of her father, but these too occur mostly in overview. These structural choices sacrifice clarity for the sake of suspense. The story does open up about halfway through with a crucial revelation that allows for more satisfying novelistic scenes and conflicts. Buckhanon understands the complexities of trauma. Her portrait of Autumn's grief, fragmented memories, and inner turmoil all synthesize current scientific research on how people cope with traumatic experiences and might seek to heal.
Unfortunately, a somewhat clumsy chase for mystery overshadows the accurate portrayal of one woman's struggles with mental health.