Cresta McGowan, Goodreads reader, 5 Stars amazing
Another wow moment for me. This book made me feel about the life, times, and characters the same way The Secret Life of Bees did, or even To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes – I said it – I thought it was as powerful a novel about family dynamics as the great “Mockingbird.” Now – it tackles a very different subject matter (although rape does sneak a small moment in this) – mental illness and how this can destroy a family.
Oscillating between the childhood of Tallulah and her foray into a adulthood, Crandall deftly highlights the major strides necessary to understanding mental illness and its effects on not only those suffering, but those caught in its devastating wake. Tallulah James wears the weight of the world on her shoulders, specifically the James’s family legacy and doesn’t understand why her grandmother fights to protect it so when the rest of the small town of Lamoyne seems to hate them all so much. She is one of four siblings, and her older brother Griff has learned to ignore it, and the twins – Dharma and Walden – have as diverse approaches to life as they come; Dharma exactly like the horrible, awful, terrible mother Margo, and Walden, quiet, introspective, and desperate to belong. Tallulah though, bless her heart, has made everyone’s struggle her struggle and everyone’s pain, her pain. There were times I became frustrated with her because she wanted to control the situation so much and in doing so, she was actually causing more harm than good – but then I had to remember she was a child trying to manipulate adults and adult situations…an understanding she did not yet possess.
The real heart of the matter though digs into the lack of understanding people had about mental illness. Tallulah is being raised in a time where things were simply “swept under the rug,” or people were sent off to asylums with other excuses as to why they were suddenly gone. I’m grateful that I live in a modern age where mental struggles are diagnosed and handled. Being a person that personally suffers from anxiety and poor stress management, I can only be glad I don’t live in a time that didn’t recognize mental struggles and illnesses are real and raw and certain.
This novel is powerfully driven by plot, characters, and the deep setting of the South. Crandall writes with expert ease about the oppressive and sticky heat, the moss, the insects and their never ending swarm to attack; and she also captures the true trapped feel of small town Southern life – where the tea is always sweet and the secrets always salty.
The Myth of Perpetual Summer is as fully satisfying a read as sweet tea on a hot summer day, and as deeply uncomfortable as a mosquito on a mission. Its characters drag the reader deep into the heart of a Southern summer and a family desperate to perpetuate a myth of sunshine and laughter from behind a dark, dark cloud of storm.