The Myth of Perpetual Summer

Written by Susan Crandall
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

This is a coming-of-age novel about a troubled family that has been torn apart by secrets, betrayal, and mental illness, and a moving portrait of love and forgiveness.

While growing up in Mississippi in the 1950s and ´60s, Tallulah James has an unstable childhood. Tallulah’s father is a professor at a local university but is plagued by bouts of erratic behavior, later discovered to be bipolar disorder. Tallulah’s mother is generally absent, caring more for social activism than being a mother to her four children. Her grandmother essentially raises Tallulah. She is especially close to her older brother, Griff, but when a young woman last seen with Griff is found dead and Griff is suspected of having something to do with her death, the last remaining stability of the family is shattered.

Her grandmother refuses to take her in, and Tallulah escapes to California, cutting off all ties with her family. When her younger brother joins a cult and is accused of murder nine years later, she returns home, only to find her family even more broken than when she left.

The book weaves back and forth in time to the present, to the distant past, and to Tallulah’s years living in California, which enables the reader to grasp the full picture of her life and character without sacrificing her authentic voice. Tallulah is a flawed but multidimensional human being trying to find her place in the world, only to realize that the pull of home is too strong. The other characters in the book are equally complex, and the setting is the epitome of a Southern novel, with its spot-on ambience of the time period.