Hot, sunny beach days, the crash of waves on the shore, corn on the cob, watermelon, blueberry pie, starry nights, bonfires, sand in the sheets, outdoor showers, a tidal pool filled with hermit crabs, a walk out to the end of the dock, the crack of the bat at the ball field, falling asleep by the pool with a book spread open on your chest: These are some of my favorite images of that elusive and evanescent thing called an American Summer.
I was first introduced to the idea of the summertime as something special when I was ten years old, the first time my father and stepmother rented a house for the month of July on Cape Cod. Our blended family, which included 5 children, of which my twin brother and I were the eldest, went to the Cape for seven straight summers, and this was where I developed my affinity for collecting beach glass, and swimming out to the wooden raft, and "cocktail hours" on the screened-in porch that included Shirley Temples and shrimp cocktail. We played miniature golf, we went out for ice cream, we walked the beach before breakfast, we went to bed with sand in the sheets. It was, every second of it, heaven.
My father was killed in a plane crash when I was sixteen, and those idyllic summer vacations ended. In fact, most of what was happy in my life ended at that point. The summer I was seventeen, I worked in a factory that made Halloween costumes. I ate brown bag lunches and spent my free nights at the shopping mall. I didn't see the ocean even once. I was miserable.
Thus started a quest of sorts...how could I regain my American Summer? It was, in so many ways, all I wanted. I decided the first thing I needed was a job where I would have the summer free...and so after college, and nearly a year in Manhattan working at in an office, I secured a position teaching middle school English. I had the summer off. I was free to live at the beach!
I chose Nantucket because I wanted an island, someplace authentic, someplace storied, someplace literary. And to paraphrase John Denver, when I arrived on Steamship Wharf in July of 1993, it was like coming home to a place I'd never been before. I had found my place in the world. I had found my American Summer.
Read Part Two of this story June 19th at Thoughts in Progress.
About Summerland: A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. But what begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver of the car, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny's boyfriend Jake and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt - but the emotional damage is overwhelming, and questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel.
As summer unfolds, startling truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents - secrets kept, promises broken, hearts betrayed. Elin Hilderbrand explores the power of community, family, and honesty, and proves that even from the ashes of sorrow, new love can still take flight.
Thanks to the publisher, I have three copies of Summerland to offer today to residents of the United States and Canada. No PO Boxes, please. Giveaway open until June 26th, winners will be notified by email. Please fill out the form below to enter!
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Posted by Amy at 9:59 PM
Musings on an American Summer Part 1 by Elin Hilderbrand + Giveaway