Peter S. Beagle's newest book not quit amazing.
By Lex Voytek
When I went to read “Summerlong,” the newest adult fantasy novel by Peter S. Beagle, I wanted to like it. I loved his fantasy work when I was a kid, and hoped this one would leave me with warm fuzzies as well.
Unfortunately, “Summerlong” missed the mark.
Beagle’s most famous work, “The Last Unicorn,” was geared for a younger audience, most of whom are all grown up now. It is perhaps with this in mind that Beagle sought to target a more adult audience this time around.
Beagle still has a talent for classic whimsy and well-crafted turns of phrase, but “Summerlong” lacks credible plot points.
The story opens with Abe and Joanna, an older couple who have been together for 22 years. They are both a bit rough around the edges, content, unmarried, and living separately – Joanna in Seattle and Abe a ferry ride away on Gardner Island.
Abe is a retired professor and still pores through books of mythology and novels for pleasure. Flight attendant Joanna frets over how some of the other attendants have taken to calling her mom, while Lily, Joanna’s grown daughter from a previous marriage, rarely calls her by that title.
The three of these characters make a dynamic and entertaining trio even before their lives are changed by the mysterious Lioness.
Lioness is a waitress at Abe’s and Joanna’s favorite diner. She is described as having a wild, otherworldly kind of beauty and appears to be on the run from something or someone.
Beagle sets up the family skillfully. Lily, a rebel with a history of self-destruction, finally lets her worried mother get closer to her. Abe seeks his dreams of being a harmonica player in a band, and Joanna tackles her fear of the water on a kayak.
However, it is the magical Lioness who failed to make an impact despite her big plot twist reveal. Beagle did not convince me of Lioness’s identity, and instead left her as what I can only describe as an undercooked, awkward distraction.
While overall a disappointment, the book was not all bad. Beagle’s power to show, through well-crafted prose, the complexity of older love and the need to embrace change was the story’s real magic.
Lex Voytek is a freelance writer and book reviewer.
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