SUMMERLONG (Ecco; On-sale: June 16, 2015; ISBN: 9780062321169; $26.99)) is the at once breezy and biting third novel from award-winning writer Dean Bakopoulos, whom Lorrie Moore calls “a great talent—everything he writes is full of insight and inspiration and the best kind of divine comedy.” Set in an isolated Midwestern college town during the sultry summer months, the sharply limned narrative explores the vagaries of life and love in the middle—mid-life, mid-marriage, and middle class. “Bakopoulos is very much his own writer, and it is his distinct humanity and sense of humor that make this story so emotionally rewarding,” says Publishers Weekly. “This is that rare, contemporary suburban novel with characters the reader can actually embrace in spite of their many flaws.”
Except for a brief stint, Don Lowry has spent his whole life in Grinnell, Iowa—from a lower class childhood to a scholarship at the college to his present life as a real estate agent. His college sweetheart wife, Claire, originally from New York, is a once promising writer who hasn’t written a book in a decade. The Lowrys’ marriage has reached a stalemate, the casualty of grown-up disappointments, and the grinding responsibilities of parenthood and an underwater mortgage. One fateful night, Don and Claire each has an encounter that will shape their summer and perhaps their futures. Don, out for his usual evening stroll, meets a young recent graduate, Amelia Benitez-Coors—called ABC—lying in a park getting stoned. He wakes up the next morning, equally stoned, beside her in a hammock. Claire, out for a midnight run, meets the handsome and considerably younger Charlie Gulliver, who has just returned to his hometown to handle his parents’ affairs after a semi-success as an actor on the West Coast.
Charlie’s father, a brilliant former English professor at the college who is now in an assisted living home suffering from a rare form of dementia, was ABC’s professor, and when the two young people meet they form their own unique bond. ABC’s lesbian lover, Philly, has just died, and she hopes to die herself by the end of summer in anticipation of an afterlife reunion. Before her death, Philly jokingly promised that she would send Don Lowry as a messenger, but ABC can’t shrug off her chance encounter with the realtor. Meanwhile, she has been living in the home of Ruth Manetti, an elderly faculty widow and possessor of hard-won wisdom. “Every life is in trouble, every minute of the day,” she will tell Claire. “Sometimes we are keenly aware of this fact, and sometimes we can ignore it.”
As the sticky summer unfolds, erotic bonds develop and dissolve, friendships and loyalties are tested, and these four troubled souls dance with heartbreak. Whether happiness is possible, or Don and Claire’s marriage will survive, is anyone’s guess.
“There is no better guide through a hot summer in the heartland than Dean Bakopoulos,” says Jane Hamilton. “Lovers chasing all over the joint, the glorious wreckage, and Bakopoulos with his keen eye, his sympathy and his wit, there to see all.” “Summerlong is Dean Bakopoulos at his finest,” adds Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs, “daringly funny, heartbreakingly sad, and forever on the watch for redemption. This is a book for any season, any reader, anywhere--it shimmers with magic, lust, and love.”