They have been coming to their grandmother Gloria's lake cottage since they were babies. Now Johnnie and Buddy have families of their own and C.C. has a life full of adult drama and adventure. And this trip – the only stated purpose of which is to bring the family together for the last weekend of the summer – seems full of portent. Gloria has been hinting that there's more on the agenda than grilling and swimming, and when the three siblings learn that their estranged father will also be in attendance, it becomes clear that this weekend will have implications that last far beyond the final days of the season.
A touching, incisive view into the dynamics of a family on the verge of change and filled with characters both distinctive and utterly relatable, THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER is a rich, lyrical reading experience that will resonate in your heart.
|Product dimensions:||5.94(w) x 8.87(h) x 0.84(d)|
About the Author
Raised in Dublin, the city of songs and stories, Peter Murphy grew up on books and music. As a young man he spent time trekking around Europe before moving to Canada where, after a few years battling some personal demons, he fell in love and raised a family.
When his children reached adulthood and, having written four novels (Lagan Love, Born & Bred, Wandering in Exile, and All Roads), Murphy packed up his life and moved back to Europe with his loving wife and faithful dog.
He now lives in Lisbon where he plans to study the lugubriousness of love.
Read an Excerpt
Gloria had taken her nap early so she would be well-rested when they all arrived. Sleeping in the afternoon had once seemed such an indulgence, but she knew herself now and how easily she could be worn down. She was eighty-two years old and was grudgingly accepting the growing limitations that came with that.
She sat by the dock and took another hit from her pipe. She smiled her old smile: she would defy her age and get up and spend what energy she could muster with her great-grandchildren. Being with them allowed her to glimpse what it was like to be young again, especially when she was with Susie. She was more like Gloria than all the others. She loved the boys, too: Joey and Dwayne, and little Brad, who always struggled to keep up, but Susie was her favorite.
Gloria exhaled slowly, breathing out some of the little knots that had formed inside of her. Family was the ultimate Gordian knot, and she needed to be in the correct frame of mind.
She had started smoking weed for her glaucoma and was pleasantly surprised by how good it always made her feel. Her doctor had cautioned her about it being a gateway, but as far as Gloria was concerned, there were far bigger problems in the world. She had another few hits and rose to put her pipe away where prying eyes wouldn't find it. Her grandkids, Johnnie, Buddy, and C.C., were okay with her doing it, but their mother, Mary ... she was another story. And the reason for so many of the knots.
Mary was going to be difficult, and there was very little Gloria would be able to do but try to redirect her for as long as possible. There was a sad predictability about Mary and had been since Jake first brought her home to meet his parents. Gloria had done what she could to make the young woman feel welcome, but Mary had always been rather self-absorbed and very prone to bouts of self-indulgence. And she had never been at ease around Harry on account of his blindness; she often complained to Jake that his father's vacant, empty stare made her feel uncomfortable.
Harry had lost his sight when his bomber was shot up during the war. Thankfully, the pilot had held it together until they made it back across the Channel, saving Harry and what was left of the crew. Still, Harry had to spend almost a year in a hospital in England, and after many months of recuperation back in Canada was deemed fit enough to go out and find his way through the world again.
Like so many of the others who had fought in that war, Harry wanted to seem upbeat and always said that despite losing his sight, and a part of his face, he was one of the luckier ones. He was terribly disfigured, but people didn't concern themselves so much with things like that back then.
Gloria had met him the last time Bert Niosi played the Palais Royale. He had walked right up to her — with the help of her brother — and asked if she could lead. He always enjoyed telling that story, and Gloria had always laughed along with him. She understood: it was one of the ways he reassured himself that he was still able to cope with the world.
After he settled back into civilian life, Harry worked for his father until the old man died, and then Harry took over. He always said that, even blind, he could see far more than his father, and when the time was right, sold the business for a very good price. He sold up their house in North Toronto too and moved Gloria and all her paints and easels into the palatial cottage that had been in his family for years.
Painting was one of the few parts of a much younger Gloria that had survived. Back when she was in her twenties, she had notions of a more bohemian lifestyle: of wearing pants and smoking cigarettes, but convention, and conformity, had shaped her and changed her — at least as far as the world was concerned.
Initially, her parents had mixed feelings about Harry. They were glad that Gloria had found someone, and they were obliged to consider all that he had sacrificed for the common good, but they were concerned that he and Gloria would find it difficult to lead a normal, happy life. Harry and Gloria had scoffed at that and had lived a life full of small eccentricities: small, but enough to reassure them that they would never become like their parents.
The war had changed Harry, and while he always behaved like it hadn't, he was not afraid to share his views with Gloria in private. He said that the war had proven that the people of the world were sheep-like and easily controlled, and that he and Gloria were duty-bound to live to the full extent of the freedoms he, and so many others, had fought for.
That was why he had always supported her painting, and when she had finished a new one, he would touch it as she described all that he could never see. It was a bit odd, but most of life with a blind man was. He was particularly curious as to the colors she had used. That was the one thing he said he missed — colors, particularly at sunset.
When they first got together they had made a vow to never let his sightlessness become an issue, so every fine evening they would sit on the dock and Gloria would describe everything as the light changed. He would smile his odd little smile that was part-wistful and part-defiant. He always said that he savored every moment of it.
For the most part, Gloria had been happy with him, but their last few years were by far the best. They had grown to really know and love each other by then and had learned to ignore the last of each other's shortcomings — the few they hadn't been able to outgrow. The only clouds on their horizon were the ones that blew in from their son's troubled life.
When it was time for Harry to die, he insisted that he would do it on the dock, listening to the soft lap of the lake, the whisperings among the trees, and the lonesome call of the loons. For a few days Gloria had wrapped him in blankets and sat with him as the sun settled just beyond the other shore. They rarely spoke — they didn't have to — and when he drew his last breath, she kissed him and closed his eyes.
Gloria still remembered every detail like it was one of her paintings. She didn't move for a while and just sat holding his hand as it grew colder and colder. Then, when all that he had been was gone, she rose and phoned Jake.
He had reacted poorly and, in the anger of his grief, berated Gloria for not telling him sooner. He would have liked to have known and would have made the trip, if only to say goodbye. Harry hadn't wanted that. Over the previous few years he and Jake had become totally estranged, and Harry wanted to die without any more acrimony — alone with his wife and dancing partner who had led him through the best years of his life. But after he was gone, Gloria grew to understand Jake's rancour and resentment.
She had the chance to make up for that now. She was bringing them all together to try to resolve some old issues while she still could — and it might be just the thing to help Mary find some peace with all that had happened to her along the way.
Gloria smiled to herself as she wrapped her pipe and put it in the old tin box she had kept for years. She placed it beneath the loose board at the shore end of the dock and walked slowly back towards her home.
* * *
Johnnie glanced at the rear-view mirror and had to smile. Susie had looked up from her phone and had removed one of her earphones. They'd been crawling along in highway traffic for over an hour and the kids had been off in their electronic bubbles, ignoring everything that was actually said to them but quick to hear what wasn't. He didn't mind; he had decided that they were all going to have a good time, no matter what.
"No one is dying," his wife said over her shoulder. "Are they?" She looked back at Johnnie and waited for him to answer.
He didn't look at her, pretending instead to check his mirrors as if he was going to try to change lanes. There was no point; all three lanes were stop-and-go. It was the last weekend of the summer and everyone was making the most of it, even turning Thursday into Friday. They should have left on Wednesday evening.
"Damn it. I told you that we should have left earlier." He checked the passenger side mirror again and stole a quick glance at Carol. She was smiling. It was how she always looked whenever he thought about her. She was almost forty, but her smile hadn't changed. It was just like when he had finally gotten up the courage to ask her out.
Twenty years later, he still considered it the smartest thing he had ever done — and he'd done a lot of smart things in his life. And Carol had been by his side for most of them.
"Well what? I didn't say anything about anybody dying."
"No, but you did say that it was going to be one last hurrah."
"Yeah," his son joined in, taking a moment to look up from his game.
Johnnie often got frustrated with the amount of time Joey spent playing, but he was doing really well in high school and was, for the most part, a good kid. Carol always reminded Johnnie of that, and that Johnnie was really proud of him — "even if their twisted father/son dynamic didn't allow him to express it verbally." She wasn't serious about the last part; he had a very good and open relationship with his kids. Carol just loved teasing him.
"You only say something like that when someone's about to die."
"Universally, Dad, not everything's about you."
"Well, it should be. I work like a slave, night and day, to put bread on the table for this family. The least I deserve is a bit of recognition once in a while." He tried to keep a straight face but had to turn his head away.
"Really, Johnnie, you're beginning to sound like your mother. I suppose she's riding with Buddy."
"Yeah, and they're probably there by now."
"Good. Maybe she'll have finished complaining by the time we get there."
"Mom, that's not nice," Susie chided absentmindedly as she went back to her phone.
"True, but it's still true. I know she's your grandmother, but she can be such a ..."
"And that, kids, is what I mean. I get absolutely no respect." Johnnie checked their faces in the rear-view mirror, but they had their heads down again, tweeting and tagging and toggling. He missed when they were younger and talked about everything they passed along the way. He even missed the choruses of: "Are we there yet?"
They had been coming to the cottage since they were babies. Johnnie was a contractor and helped Gloria keep the place in shape. It was more like a hotel than a cottage, and over the years, Johnnie had restored all the original woodwork and replaced the roofs and the wrap-around veranda. Earlier in the summer he had fitted out the attic of the boathouse and put in bedrooms for the kids. The place was really something.
"So, is she or isn't she?"
"She probably is, but not just yet."
"So, what did you mean by 'one last hurrah'?"
"I just meant it's the end of summer."
Carol nodded and turned back to the windshield. Johnnie did too, towards the long lines of cars that were inching along as far as he could see, each one shimmering in the haze. "Yup! We should have left earlier." "But you were the one who kept us waiting," Carol teased.
"I had to take that call."
"An emergency renovation?"
"You know we can't let even one get away. It's a dogeat-dog world out there."
She let it go at that, but he knew that she knew that there was more going on. There was: the call was from his father.
* * *
"Text Johnnie and Carol and see where they're at."
Buddy nodded without looking up and began to type with her thumbs, but she kept one eye on Norm. He was getting frustrated, and they'd only just gotten on the highway. She wanted to say that they should have left earlier, but he had a meeting and couldn't get out of it.
Her mother was still miffed at that. She had wanted to get there before Johnnie and Carol, before they had the chance to insinuate themselves with Gloria, who, Mary often complained, made no secret of the fact that they were her favourites. "And," she leaned forward, "you could mention to your brother that I'm not very happy with them right now."
"What did they do now?" Buddy asked dutifully. She wished her mother wouldn't talk like that in front of Norm. It just gave him more things to throw back at her when they argued.
"They never even bothered to ask if I had a ride. For all they care, I could have been left to hitchhike."
"Mom, they knew you were coming with us."
"It wouldn't have killed them to check." Mary sniffed and twitched a little.
"I'll mention it," Buddy nodded again and turned back to her phone.
"And tell him I got a whole box," Norm added after Buddy had been typing for a while.
"A whole box of what?"
"I hope you're not planning to spend the whole weekend out in the boat."
"Not the whole weekend."
"Just a few early mornings ... and a few late nights; I'll be around the rest of the time."
"Napping or just having a few beers?"
"Buddy, come on. Lighten up a bit. After all, the kids are back at school next week."
"All the more reason you should spend as much time with them as you can. I think you should take them with you when you go fishing."
"They're always welcome."
Buddy tried to swallow all the things she really wanted to say. There was no point; when they argued in front of others, she always came away feeling like the bad guy. Everybody — Johnnie, Carol, Gloria — loved Norm. It was easy; he was like a big kid, and she always came off like she was a nag. She turned around to see how the kids were doing, but they didn't look back at her. They were squeezed up against the doors as they tried to avoid making any contact with their grandmother, who always insisted on sitting in the middle and spread out on either side.
"Leave him alone," Mary leaned forward again, squishing them a little more and chiding Buddy like she was still a child. "Let him have a bit of a holiday. He works hard enough — not like your father."
Buddy turned back and stared straight ahead. She knew what her mother was doing. Mary was finding it harder and harder to manage on her own and had talked with Buddy about moving in with her and Norm. She wasn't crazy about the idea, but how could she say no?
Norm had said that he'd need time to think about it and would decide over the weekend. "Let's just have a great weekend, and then we can sit down and talk about it when we get home," he had said, and Buddy knew exactly what he really meant: he was going to hold it over her for as long as he could.
He also said that he had mentioned it to Johnnie and he didn't think it was a good idea. He said that Johnnie felt his mother would be better off in a retirement home. Buddy had gotten a little riled at that, especially when she heard that Carol thought it was time. "It's really not for her to have an opinion on this. This is for Johnnie, C.C., and me to decide."
Even as she had said it, she regretted it, but Norm had just smiled and nodded. She knew exactly what he was thinking. He never argued with her when she went on like that. Later, when it was time to talk about things, he'd often say that he knew she really didn't mean it. And those times when even she had to admit that she had been in the wrong, he'd subtly remind her that just being around her mother always brought out her bitchy side. He'd also suggest that if she had a problem with Carol, she should talk with her about it and not complain through him.
"What did they say?" he asked after Buddy's phone had chirped.
She had it set to some really annoying bird sound that made Mary twitch again. She had explained to them all that she needed it like that to get her attention because she was so always busy most of the time. She had a point. Norm had to work late a lot recently, and she had to take the kids to all their stuff. She just needed some time to chill and, with her mother around, that wasn't going to happen so much. For Buddy, being at the cottage wasn't a time for relaxing. She had to deal with the kids — and her mother — without all the conveniences and distractions of home. Norm just didn't seem to get that.
"They're just coming up to Orillia."
"Hey, we can catch them." Norm changed lanes for the umpteenth time. He got a few cars ahead before the whole highway ground to a halt again. "We should have left earlier. Damn it."
* * *
"Do you want to stop somewhere and let them catch up?" Johnnie asked. He had his elbow out the open window. It was his James Dean pose, and it still made Carol feel good inside. They had really gotten into all that fifties stuff after they had seen Grease one night at a drive-in, and Johnnie still rented a convertible for their anniversaries and stuff, but it looked just as cool when he did it in the truck.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Last Weekend of the Summer"
Copyright © 2018 Peter Damien Murphy.
Excerpted by permission of Studio Digital CT, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Every family has is own style of dysfunction but Peter D. Murphy writes an amazing storyline that makes you nod your head more than once. Gloria has requested that her family come together "one last time". Immediately, we dive into each character's head and learn their point of view. The drama had me laughing, crying, shaking my head, and sighing (sometimes all at once!). Numerous scenes make me feel like I'm taking a trip down my own family memory lane. The unresolved anger and frustration between the family members makes you think about when you can't let go of issues with your own loved ones. A fun read that came at the perfect time -- the end of summer (since we just entered cooler fall weather!).
Every once in a while an author comes along who writes novels that are so powerfully compelling, poignant, and thought-provoking, that the reader will be able to relate to it on some level. In The Last Weekend Of The Summer, author Peter Murphy weaves a wonderful story about the complicated dynamics of family relationships that will simply pull at your emotional heartstrings. The Last Weekend Of The Summer is a richly descriptive literary tale that explores the dysfunctional family relationship of matriarch Gloria and her clan. Gloria requests that her whole family come together for the last weekend of the summer at the family lakeside cabin to resolve old issues, come to terms with the past, seek closure, make amends, gain redemption and reconciliation, and reestablish the familial bonds in order to keep the family together. The family weekend is filled with drama, humor, sibling rivalry, animosity, unresolved dysfunctional family issues, secrets, regrets, resentments, and an emotional chance to renew the bonds of family. The author does a wonderful job of intertwining the family's dysfunctional past with the difficulties that they face in their present lives. You can't help but get swept away, relate, and experience the full gamut of emotions as Gloria and her family face a crossroad in their lives as they hash out their unresolved dysfunctional family dynamic while considering the intense and difficult choices of how to deal with their current life issues. The Last Weekend Of The Summer is a powerful and compelling story written from the heart. It is a must read that will make you ponder your own family dynamic, stir your soul, and resonate with you for a very long time.
I thought this was just going to be another book about a dysfunctional family. It’s not. Oh, the family is definitely dysfunctional, but this book gets into all the ins and outs and whys. It’s a very good book. You’re going to need a box of tissues at the end. And don’t bother reading the end before you read the rest of the book. It won’t make any sense to you. I’ve not read any of Mr. Murphy’s previous books, but I’m certainly looking forward to his next one. ***Book provided without charge by Providence Book Promotions.*** Submitted by sunny island breezes.
On this last weekend of summer, matriarch Gloria brings her whole family together, even a surprise guest. She says, “Perhaps it is a little selfish of me, but I wanted you all here with me this weekend. I wanted my entire family to be together once more, while there is still time.” Of course, they all think she must be dying, but the truth is even harder to take. It will be a difficult weekend because “when they were all together - it was like they stopped being who they really were and all became characters in some drawn-out soap opera.” Long-held resentments will surface, relationships will be tested, and old family secrets will be revealed. The story is told in the third person point-of-view of every family member, bar the two youngest boys. It’s hard to keep up with whose head you’re in, and even the author must have had trouble keeping up because sometimes two points-of-view are included in the same section. The dialogue is often lacking in contractions, making it stilted and unnatural and pulling the reader out of the story. Nevertheless, the author explores a rich tapestry of relationships in this family where everyone initially appears unlikable but ends up revealing their redeeming features. This is just the kind of family drama I’ve been missing and craving. The story is followed by “Reading Group Questions” and “A Conversation with the Author”. Warnings: coarse language, drug use, sexual references, LGBTQ themes, suicide references. I received this book in return for an honest review. Full blog post (21 September): https://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-last-weekend-of-the-summer-by-peter-murphy.html
The Last Weekend of the Summer by Peter Murphy Story sounded interesting and am really getting into reading it. Last weekend of the summer and all the families will assemble at Gloria's house on the lake. Love that there are so many acitivities for the kids, grown men get time to themselves fishing and drinking, women of the tribe get to gather and plan and the ex of one women will be showing up. It's all for Gloria's sake-others think it is about her dying, some think she will be moving in to their houses, others think it's about the grandfather. Lots of drama but deep down feelings also show through. Like that Gloria has to use medical marijuana to get through the pains. Some don't agree with that treatment... Secrets come out about the past and I like how they are dealt with by everybody. There are very strained moments similar to ones our family has dealt with over the years whenever the whole family got together. Some just don't get along with all, so you avoid them. Great story, love the ending, a surprise! Love that this book covers all age groups and their realistic daily problems. About the author and reading group questions and conversation with the author are included at the end. Other works by the author are highlighted also. Received this review copy from The Story Plant via Netgalley and this is my honest opinion. #TheLastWeekendOfTheSummer #NetGalley
“…while the past may be full of errors, the present is full of opportunities to make amends.” Gloria, the family matriarch brings the entire family together (with one surprise guest) to the cottage for a last weekend of the summer. In an attempt to try to resolve some old family issues, secrets and grievances come to the surface and each person deals with it in their own way. Full of emotions, various personalities, it includes all age-groups making this a realistic family story. An ode to Summer, well-written read.
"It is a privilege to share one's life with someone, and it is also a privilege to share death." A wonderful novel about a family whose matriarch is Gloria. Gloria is 82 and only wants her family together for one final weekend in the cottage. Her goal is to encourage her family to move forward and forgive her son who has been estranged from his children,grandchildren and ex-wife. A story of hurt, anger, love and reconciliation among those we know best- Family. Well done!