With its striking cover and important themes, Speaking of Summer was a definite must-read for me.
On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister, Summer, walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again. The door to the roof is locked, and the snow holds only one set of footprints. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing Black woman, Autumn must pursue the search for her sister all on her own.
With her friends and neighbors, Autumn pretends to hold up through the crisis. But the loss becomes too great, the mystery too inexplicable, and Autumn starts to unravel, all the while becoming obsessed with the various murders of local women and the men who kill them, thinking their stories and society’s complacency toward them might shed light on what really happened to her sister.
In Speaking of Summer, critically acclaimed author Kalisha Buckhanon has created a fast-paced story of urban peril and victim invisibility, and the fight to discover the complicated truths at the heart of every family.
Speaking of Summer opens with a prologue that draws you in instantly; there’s just something about its first person narrative that pulls you in, makes it feel as though said character wants to tell you, the reader, their story.
I wouldn’t class this novel as “fast-paced” as the blurb states, but it certainly addressed the themes mentioned: urban peril, victim invisibility and what it means to be a black woman in America and societies attitude towards them. Autumn was a very complex character. From her early childhood experiences to her present day life, this novel unpicks Autumn’s urban life and how her experiences impacted her. More a story of Autumn’s self-, and society, exploration than a ‘missing person’ novel.
“Women of color don’t matter in America unless we are rich and famous.”
The pace was steady, there was a slight lull in the middle but a turn of events caused the pace to pick up. Not ‘light’ reading, this novel sheds light on many important issues and that’s the reason I recommend it – for the insight into the experiences it details.
Also with themes of mental health, which are always of great interest to me. How the mind constructs itself, and it’s ability, or inability, to cope with certain trauma. Buckhanon also mentioned “compassion fatigue”, a term that really stayed with me because it’s a reflection of the world we live in. Where you’re constantly hearing about tragic events in the news, the compassion you offer to others, but how much compassion do you have to give? You need to keep some for yourself, to be kind to yourself, and look after your own mental health – with all the horrific events happening around the world, do you find yourself less affected by them than you once were, do they have less of an impact on you than they should?
Speaking of Summer is literary in nature, well-written with important themes. It didn’t read as fluidly as it, perhaps, could have but I definitely want to read more from Buckhanon, particularly her novel Upstate. I’m finding this novel hard to review but I hope I have provided enough for you to decide if you want to read it for yourself.
*My thanks to the publisher (Counterpoint) for providing me with a copy of this novel*