What Dies in Summer

Written by Tom Wright
Review by Kathryn Johnson

Wright’s novel can easily be read in a variety of ways. As a Southern Gothic. As a coming-of-age novel. Even as a murder mystery or a psychological thriller. However you choose to dive into the story, it doesn’t take long for Wright to involve you in the lives of its young characters. Almost immediately we become aware of the danger they’ve opened themselves to as they attempt to discover who has brutally raped and killed a young girl whose body young Jim and his girl cousin discover in a field.

This is the author’s debut novel. Despite the challenge his publisher presents by comparing this story to the widely acclaimed The Lovely Bones, this novel holds its own. There is a simple but disturbing emotional truth to the tale. And when we reach the final page we feel compelled to say to ourselves, “I’ll bet this happens a lot, in almost every community. This twisted and dark monstrosity of the human spirit inevitably surfaces and leaks evil over innocents.”

The story begins with Jim living with his grandmother. His cousin, whom everyone calls LA, moves in with them. We have a sense of secrets kept from the young people, and perhaps even by them from each other. And one can’t help wondering how many secrets Wright, a practicing psychologist, has heard as they were spilled out to him by the desperate and damaged souls who have sat in his office. The prose is spare and beautiful and impossible to resist. We look forward to more novels of this caliber from Mr. Wright. Highly recommended.