Sunday, April 13, 2014

Are you there, Judy? It's me, Lavender.

I know, I know. Riffing on Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret  is overdone. However, I recently read my first ever book by Judy Blume, Summer Sisters. I have loved a lot of the books I've read recently, but this book left me with deep thoughts all day in a way nothing has for a long time.

Summer Sisters is the story of Vix who spends every summer on the Vineyard with Caitlin, a wild child and serious trust fund baby. The book follows Vix and Caitlin from their first summer together as pre-teens, through their summer of first loves, to college, marriage, and beyond. Along the way there are fights, laughs, betrayals, and unforgettable memories.

One of the things that struck me about this book was how accurately it nails a variety of interpersonal relationships. Firstly, the friendship between Vix and Caitlin is one I've seen and been a part of. It is both toxic and incredible, sometimes alternately, sometimes simultaneously. It doesn't matter how long it's been since you last talked because you pick right back up where you left off. It doesn't matter how crazy your last stunt was because you still love each other anyway.

Secondly, Vix's relationship with Caitlin's father and stepmother, Lamb and Abby. They completely take her in. They treat her like their own, protecting, providing, and advising as they do Caitlin. Vix, in return, loves them fiercely and turns to them for support. This connection really hit home for me. While I was never anyone's Summer Sister, I had a best friend raised by essentially a single dad while I had been raised by a single mom. We used to joke that together we had a whole family. The almost illicit feeling of loving someone else's parent/child as your own is well captured here.

Perhaps, the most poignant part of this book for me was the messiness. Every character had a messy life. Even the ones who ended up happy made mistakes and screwed things up in their own ways. I think there is a profound message to be found in this book about blended families and what it really means to be family, whether you're connected by blood or something else. I can't articulate it for you, but I do think it's there.

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