The Summer Guest
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Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for his radiant novel in stories, Mary and O’Neil, Justin Cronin has already been hailed as a writer of astonishing gifts. Now Cronin’s new novel, The Summer Guest, fulfills that promise—and more. With a rare combination of emotional insight, narrative power, and lyrical grace, Cronin transforms the simple story of a dying man’s last wish into a rich tapestry of family love.
On an evening in late summer, the great financier Harry Wainwright, nearing the end of his life, arrives at a rustic fishing camp in a remote area of Maine. He comes bearing two things: his wish for a day of fishing in a place that has brought him solace for thirty years, and an astonishing bequest that will forever change the lives of those around him.
From the battlefields of Italy to the turbulence of the Vietnam era, to the private battles of love and family, The Summer Guest reveals the full history of this final pilgrimage and its meaning for four people: Jordan Patterson, the haunted young man who will guide Harry on his last voyage out; the camp’s owner Joe Crosby, a Vietnam draft evader who has spent a lifetime “trying to learn what it means to be brave”; Joe’s wife, Lucy, the woman Harry has loved for three decades; and Joe and Lucy’s daughter Kate—the spirited young woman who holds the key to the last unopened door to the past.
As their stories unfold, secrets are revealed, courage is tested, and the bonds of love are strengthened. And always center stage is the place itself—a magical, forgotten corner of New England where the longings of the human heart are mirrored in the wild beauty of the landscape.
Intimate, powerful, and profound, The Summer Guest reveals Justin Cronin as a storyteller of unique and marvelous talent. It is a book to treasure.
put on my necktie as we crossed the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan and headed downtown. In all the years I had known Harry Wainwright, I had never once set foot into anything you might call his world. I’d been to New York, of course, though not for years—my parents had brought me for some kind of hospitality trade show—and my memory of the city was a child’s: feeling small and scared on the busy streets, the carnival thrill of a taxi ride, the fussy stiffness of wearing my best clothes and the
sort of a fan. But you might want to reconsider Cats.” In the years before my mother died, before my father’s spirit hardened like a skin of ice and he became the sort of man that people respect without actually getting along with, he liked to tell the story of how he had come to the camp. This took place right after the war, his war, a war in which he gave half his face and one emerald-green eye to the Thousand Year Reich on the point of a German sniper’s bullet, and though you’d think that
you go?” I thought he might be calling a dog, which would have been fine; lots of folks brought dogs with them, and they were more than welcome in the dining hall if they didn’t smell too bad and knew how to mind. But then the door swung open again and in marched a boy somewhere between eight and eleven, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and bright red Keds, his hair all whichway, Harry bringing up the rear. They took a table by the big windows and I busied myself with menus and a coffeepot and took
crowd were saying he was drunk, I didn’t think he was. He was just there, lying in the street as if he didn’t have a care in the world, apparently comfortable and totally uninterested in anything the cop was saying to him or where he was and why it was worth a fuss. I craned my neck upward to see what he was seeing: the crowns of the buildings, an airy gauze of clouds, a blue dome of April sky. Nothing, really, to account for his look. A second policeman arrived, and then a third, barking into
any of that. It’s probably the stupidest idea I ever heard of, that you come back as a bug or something. But still, it must have seemed strange, the timing of it. His dying, then me born right after.” He stopped and shook his head. “I don’t even know what I’m saying.” In fact, the idea was not so surprising. Once or twice Meredith and I had even said as much, not really believing it, but trying to take some small comfort in the idea. Over time, though, as we spoke of Sam less and less, the