The Summer Garden: A Love Story

Written by Paullina Simons
Review by Nanette Donohue

The final volume in Simons’ epic trilogy follows Tatiana Metanova and Alexander Barrington from the early years of their marriage to the end of their lives – a scope of 50+ years. Tatiana and Alexander have escaped to the United States from Russia and are struggling to live together after having been separated by war. With their son, Anthony, the couple travels across the U.S., searching for a place where they will fit in. They eventually settle outside of the booming city of Phoenix, Arizona, on the land that Tatiana purchased with the money that Alexander’s mother left to him. As they adjust to their new, postwar life, experiences from their past continue to haunt them. Alexander is both psychologically and physically scarred by his experiences in a Soviet work camp, and while his love for Tatiana helps him heal, there are some ghosts that will haunt him forever.

Simons touches on some of the major stories of the mid-to-late 20th century, including women entering the work force, the Vietnam War, and the economic and baby booms following World War II. There’s also plenty of family drama as Tatiana and Alexander’s marriage grows and changes. They were young when they met and young when they married, and as they mature, their outlook on life and their feelings for one another grow and change.

The Summer Garden does suffer from the same flaws as earlier books in the trilogy: some of the plot twists are implausible, and when Tatiana and Alexander are in a cycle of fighting/making up/making love, it can get tiresome and repetitive. However, when there’s action – and there often is – it’s an excellent saga, full of all of the elements that readers of the genre most enjoy. It’s not always a realistic portrait of a marriage, and it’s certainly not idealistic, but it’s dramatic and powerful and often romantic.