3 out of 4 stars
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Donald De Vries shares life in small-town Iowa in Two Sheldon Iowa Summers: The Last Real Summer – Summer One, The Summer of Final Judgment – Summer Two. De Vries story is a fictionalized account of life in a small town. The author calls his tale “A Novella-yzed-AutoBio and Story.”
The author opens with facts about a variety of the people in his real town. He also dedicates the book to people who have been impacted by mental illness, alcohol, drugs and more. Summer One is a short section, which introduces the characters, gives some background information, and familiarizes readers with the town.
Les takes us on a journey of fantastical visions that feel so real and incredibly disturbing. These visions and dreams share quite a bit about various people in his life, including those past and present, which become quite meaningful in realistic ways later in the story. As Les arrives home for the summer after his freshman year, we meet his girlfriend, Lorraine, his friends (Wildchild, Vern, Huckleberry, Merton), and his family (Denny, Connie, his parents – Gladys and Waldo). The author shares a bit about some of the relationships and setting the tone for the main story.
The core of the story is presented in Summer Two. It is now the summer of Les and his friends’ junior year in college. This particular summer will test the power of love and friendship as one of the gang’s addiction issues becomes worse, causing heartbreak for many. Relationships aren’t always what they seem to be, or what they should be. The gang will learn to accept the wisdom of their elders and watch their community come together in the midst of several great tragedies. The growth and redemption following such tragedy are in some ways predictable but told in a thought-provoking way.
De Vries touches on a few tough topics in Two Sheldon Iowa Summers. Mental illness, drugs, alcohol, and death all play a role in this story. De Vries depictions of mental illness are very realistic. The characters that have a mental illness are shown as having the normal fluctuations and behaviors of someone with a mental illness. Furthermore, the ways their family members react are highly accurate and believable. Drug and alcohol addictions are also characterized with phenomenal accuracy. One of my favorite parts in the book is the information the author shares on the various ways addicts and their loved ones can seek help.
The core characters and several of the minor characters are well-developed. Watching how Les and Lorraine mature over time while creating their future amidst tragedy is endearing and genuine. The vivid descriptions make you feel like you are visiting Sheldon and that you could find your way from the family farm to the pharmacy in town. Overall, the realism is what sets this story apart from others with similar storylines.
The one major negative is the numerous grammatical errors, as well as a few spelling errors. There were also small gaps between some paragraphs and large gaps inside of sentences. This was distracting at times. This book definitely needs more editing and polishing to become a first-rate book.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Normally, the grammar and formatting issues would have brought the rating down to 2 stars for me. However, the storyline is so worthwhile, engaging, and endearing on so many different levels that I had to give it 3 stars. People who have dealt with family members who are addicts or mentally ill would find this story very relatable. It would also be appealing to those who like to see how people deal with tragedy. There are some quite graphic scenes, but they do not overpower the story.
Two Sheldon Iowa Summers
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