Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It’s 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, each of them hiding a troubling secret. As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country.
My Thoughts: At the beginning of Summer of 69, Kate Levin is living in fear for her son Tiger, who has just received his draft notice. Could the secrets of her past lead to a karmic punishment?
As each member of the family descends on Nantucket and the family’s vacation home, they ponder the possibilities for the months ahead. Alternating narratives take us along for the ride, and I could almost feel myself catapulted back to my own defining moments of the past.
I especially enjoyed relating to Kirby and her protests, which led to her decision to get a job on Martha’s Vineyard instead of joining the family on Nantucket. We gradually learn about her previous choices and how they changed her life. I also connected to how the author wove real life historic characters into the plot, reminding us of how these events unfolded.
Young Jessie’s summer felt especially real, as she faced adolescent angst and the questionable actions of the adults in the family.
Moon landings, the Vietnam War, and Chappaquiddick stirred the pot and made the lives of the characters fit seamlessly into the historic moments for the country.