Spending most their times together in the Vaughn’s bomb shelter, the girls have no idea what is in store for their 1953 summer. Faith jeopardizes her relationship with Allen by trying to escalate their intimacy - a suggestion from Bernadette. Allen’s cold shoulder to Faith and Bernadette’s allusions to flirting with her distant boyfriend, cause Faith to feel remorse and to find comfort in an unhinged pastor who has just moved to Port Pompeii. Octavia remains stuck with the duties of caring for Archie, while her identity continues to be suppressed. However, it is Bernadette’s insecurity that really impacts the lives of these upstate New York adolescents. Her insecurity is the mechanism by which Walsh propels an naive summer of friendship to one of utmost treachery. Then there are some things that are not found out until a 1973 reunion of the former Port Pompeii residents.
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Without ever having taken one business course, she created her own brand and became a successful business executive by day and women’s fiction writer by night. So far, she has lived a Lifetime Movie Network life, a mixture of extraordinary, ordinary, mundane, and terrifying, providing her great inspiration and fanning her creative flame.
Her father imbued in her a strong sense of family. He brought to life the words unconditional love. From her mother, she gained an appreciation for the complexities of relationships and richness in life one finds exploring and experiencing everything from a recipe, to a historical site, to lunch with friends, or a glass of wine. Her mother was a collector of experiences. They journeyed together and grew as individuals and as mother-daughter. Elaine shared her mother’s journeys battling cancer, as her mother survived one and succumbed to another. In one of their last soulful conversations before her mother died, she told Elaine she was glad Elaine also had a daughter and hoped she would enjoy her own daughter as much as her mother enjoyed Elaine.
The most powerful influences in her life and her stories come from being a daughter, mother, friend, and soul mate. But as a successful women’s fiction writer, does this surprise anyone?
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As I mentioned before, the plot was fast-paced – perfect for a summer read. I spent two nights reading this on my tablet, often finding out that morning dawned on me. The silent conflict between Faith and Bernadette after the spoiled Vaughn hints that she had a crush on Allen really shakes up the plot. The novel is chronicled well by both Octavia and Faith. Their transitions are well-organized, allowing for a smooth plot. It was not hard to follow at all despite the blatant contrast between character narration. Unfortunately, the ending of the novel seemed a bit rushed. The reunion of 1973 was too functional in its exposing of secrets. The reunion was more of a “tell-all” session, and could have been less obvious.
I certainly commend Walsh on her characterization. Normally when I read a book in two days, I am not that impacted by characters at all. However, Atomic Summer is an exception. Each character evoked different emotional responses from me. Faith’s character was eponymous of her name. She is a loyal Catholic, and though she tries her best to uphold morality, she is often gullible. There are times when I feel so sorry for her when she cannot interpret how vicious the world is. Octavia is socially-awkward, and for a part of the book, I grew tired of having to read her narration. Surrounded by books and constricted by her responsibilities for Archie, Octavia though intelligent, is quite mundane considering her age. Then I realized, “wait – this girl has adult responsibilities to fulfill”. So I must confess, I began to grow fond of her because I felt pitiful for her. Also, she had the most pain to deal with. My favorite characterization was for Bernadette. She is a vicious adolescent with dictating hormones and no conscience. Though Bernadette did not narrate, Walsh gave us a lot of information on her via her loyal friends. I think Bernadette represents a lot of people we know today. She is manipulative and mocking, covetous and crazed. Sometimes I wish Walsh made her break an arm. There are many other characters in the book – Susannah, Stephen, Lyle, Allen, Wesley, etc – that not only enhance the plot, but make the book more authentic by presenting personalities we are familiar with.
Style and Literary Elements(3/4)
Walsh’s style is one that keeps readers intrigued. She leaves a lot of room for suspicion and even adds elements of humor. Flashbacks are obviously essential since the characters in the novel are adults now. Her diction differs amongst narrators. For instance, with Octavia you will except eloquence and slight depression. While with Faith, her diction is simple. She presents a wide range of personalities, whether it be a sleazy lurker (Lyle) or an egotistic matriarch (Susannah). With her ability to depict such distinct natures, it is obvious that Walsh excels in being a versatile writer. Her figurative elements such as her historical allusions and vivid imagery build up a story that immediately places the reader in the frantic atmosphere of the 1950s. I also loved the combination of themes Walsh presented. There is childhood innocence, betrayal, sexuality, religion, loss, grief – it is amazing how many themes can occupy such a short read.
I hope you enjoyed my first review!
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.