‘That Summer” by Jennifer Weiner is the story of two women whose lives apparently intersect because of their nearly identical email addresses, only one punctuation mark off. Daisy Shoemaker is a Philadelphia housewife with a handsome, successful husband and a beautiful, if rebellious and often difficult daughter. Daisy’s real name is Diana, but her husband decided she should be Daisy, and the name stuck. The nearly identical email belongs to another Diana who seems much more sophisticated, a woman of the world in Daisy’s eyes, but the two become good friends.
However, the other Diana is on a mission to right a wrong that happened many years earlier. She was fifteen years old and working as a mother’s helper on Cape Cod when she was raped while a second boy held her down and a third one just watched. This has colored Diana’s whole life, and she has made it a mission to find these boys, now grown men, and somehow find a way to punish them. Her opportunity has come, but she will also have to hurt someone who was not involved.
Weiner is so skillful at creating women characters at various points in their lives. The two Diana’s are very different women, but both are so well drawn. Diana/Daisy is the woman who dropped out of college to get married, thrilled that a man like Hal wanted her. She has enjoyed being a wife and mother, apparently happy with being an excellent cook and homemaker. The other Diana seems to be a polar opposite as a businesswoman who travels extensively. Only later in the novel does Daisy learn that Diana has not been honest with her about her real life, particularly about the reason she has come into Daisy’s life.
Weiner knows younger women as well. Diana at fifteen was thrilled with feeling that a handsome boy was interested in her and so excited to join him and his group of friends at the beach. In contrast, there is Beatrice, Daisy’s daughter, at about the same age, who seems much older and more sure of who she is. That knowing who she is and how she wants to live her life has gotten her kicked out the private school that her father and other members of his family have attended. While Beatrice’s sense of self has gotten her in trouble with her family, as a reader, I certainly applauded her trying to be her own person.
I thoroughly enjoyed “That Summer” and finished it in a one day (I didn’t get anything else done). Weiner is a good storyteller in person and on the page. I have gotten to see her in person a couple of times, and she is interesting and very funny. She is the author of fifteen books for adults as well as two books for younger readers.
“That Summer” is published in hardcover by Atria Books and retails for $28.