There is something extra special about reading a summer romance during the summer. Carley Fortune's debut novel, Every Summer After, is the story of Persephone (Percy) Fraser and her family's annual summer stay in Barry's Bay in Canada.
Percy's parents buy a cottage on a lake, and on day one they meet the two boys who live next door, Sam and Charlie Florek. On page 7, "I don't think my parents knew when they bought the cottage that two adolescent boys lived in the house next door. Mom and Dad wanted to give me an escape from the city, a break from other kids my age, and the Florek boys, who went unsupervised for long stretches of the afternoons and evenings, were probably as big a surprise to them as they were to me."
Even as tweens, Percy and Sam have an instant connection. They swim together, run together, and share their secrets in the confines of their summer bubble of trust.
Each August, Percy has to return to school, and she and Sam keep in touch through phone calls (and later on, emails). When they finally reach the summer before college, things fissure as they try to cope with losing the ritual that always brings them back together.
The book's chapters alternate between flashbacks and the present day. The flashbacks begin the very first summer Percy arrives at the lake, and they continue to move forward chronologically until they catch up to the present. As the reader, the flashbacks provide a deeper and deeper understanding of Percy and Sam's relationship, and how their magnetism to each other could transcend distance and time. I know that sounds corny, but it's true!
While Percy and Sam are at the core of the story, Fortune also wrote some great and very complex supporting characters. There's Sam's older brother, Charlie, who seems to be completely aloof, but never misses an opportunity to tease Percy. There's Sue, Sam and Charlie's mom, a hard working single mother who serves as a moral compass for Percy. And there's Delilah, Percy's best friend who pushes her out of her comfort zone. Delilah reminds me so much of Taylor in The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han.
What I loved most about this book was the way it understood the power of a summer vacation tradition. My family used to spend two weeks every summer on Cape Cod and those memories are visceral. The smell of the ocean air, the feeling of the sand between your toes, the beach with the best sunset views, the number of minutes it takes to drive to the best ice cream place - those memories are tattooed on your brain.
In her real life, Carley Fortune summered at the lake in Canada, so it's no wonder she was able to write about that tradition so authentically. In the acknowledgments, she shares that she started writing this novel in July 2020. She'd always wanted to write a book, but kept pushing it off. The pandemic presented an opportunity to finally spend real time on this. I'm so glad she did.
I've read a lot of great books this summer, but I think this one has been my favorite. It captures the joy and freedom of summer perfectly, and sucks you into a 15+ year relationship that you root for desperately. It's also worth noting that Fortune can write a pretty steamy sex scene.
I have scoured the internet for proof that someone has purchased the rights to the book for TV or film adaptation, but it doesn't look like that has happened yet. It should! The entire time I was reading this, I was thinking about what an amazing TV series it would make. Reese Witherspoon, can you hear me?
I just finished Bonnie Garmus' Lessons in Chemistry and I can't wait to share my thoughts with you. More to come!