4 out of 4 stars
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While serving his sentence in a correctional facility, Calvin Shaw laments over the adversity that led to his incarceration—unresolved grief, addiction, and a tragic accident that ripped through his family many years ago.
Calvin was just a boy when his father was killed. His mother, Betty Shaw, was bitter and resentful about being widowed and left to raise their three children on her own. Much to the Shaw kids' dismay, she swiftly found a replacement by the name of Randy Pike. Pike was a despicable man who liked to drink and demanded respect by belittling and torturing the kids. Calvin's only reprieve was through his weekly music lessons.
His father's death opened the door to more tragedy and drove Calvin to self-medicate with alcohol to suppress a painful memory.
Julie, the barn, and Pike—it had been eating at him for years. What happened on that fateful day?
Blue Summer by Jim Nichols is a heart-wrenching story about one man's struggle to come to terms with his past. It is told from the first-person perspective and follows Calvin Shaw as he stumbles through life—desperate to seek refuge from the memories that haunt him. The chapters portray different periods in Calvin's life and do not follow a linear path. Still, the author has expertly woven ever-changing timelines into the story without confusing the reader.
My favorite part of this multidimensional book was the added layer of music; it added substance and contributed to Calvin's character evolution. Perhaps the only silver lining in his desolate life was his unwavering love and aptitude for playing the trumpet. His passion for music resonated with me—not because I have the same interest, but because I share the ability to escape reality through a creative outlet. I admired his capacity to tune out all of the negative noise in his head and let the melody whisk him away.
It was fascinating getting to know Calvin at various stages in his life—as a boy, through adulthood, and during his incarceration. I was especially impressed with the author's ability to overlap Calvin's thoughts from one chapter to the next.
While I have read many excellent books, very few have left a profound impact on me. After reading this immersive story, I have acquired a greater understanding of the world. It's enabled me to recognize the relationship between unresolved grief and addiction. Needless to say, I could not find anything that I disliked about the writing. Even more, it was professionally edited, which is why I have chosen to give Blue Summer four out of four stars—a perfect rating for an enthralling story.
If you are a reader who believes in the healing powers of music, this book would be an excellent choice. I would also recommend it to those drawn to flawed characters, particularly ones who are grappling with grief. I would not recommend the melancholy tale to young readers; the book is riddled with profanity and deals with some heavy-hitting topics like suicide, abuse, and addiction.
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