Monday, May 30, 2011

A Review of the Book, Summer Is Her Name by Betsy Houser

Book Title: Summer Is Her Name: Born in Kentucky
Author: Betsy Houser
ISBN:  978-1432767778
Publisher:    Outskirts Press
Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui

Summer Is Her Name relates the coming of age story of Summer Rogers. Follow Summer through her childhood on a farm in Appalachia, through painful losses, youthful infatuations, and disappointments.  Share Summer’s college days, and join her during World War II as she earns money for school working in a defense plant. Travel with her around the globe and witness other cultures,  places and people.  Finally, return home with her to find true love and peace in the old Farmstead where she was born. This isn’t a typical romance coming of age book. It isn’t written in the typical fashion. The story doesn’t rise and fall following all of the conventional plot formulas. Summer Is Her Name reads like a life.  I like life. I like it a lot. This book reminded me. . .  of how much.

There is a quality of grace and an acceptance of the “what-is-ness” of life contained in its pages that affected me in a way I hadn’t anticipated I would feel. Betsy has given breath and flesh to her characters, placed scents on the wind, and transported me into the heart of the farmlands. I have tasted the wild blackberries and felt the sun warmed grasses of Kentucky embrace me. In reading, I have felt the flush of embarrassment, the burn of surprise, the shudder of fear and the thrill of anticipation.  She has distilled life experience into a bottle and poured me a glass. I hope to taste the like of it again. I feel completely humbled in reviewing her work. What can I say?

It is a damn shame that Betsy Houser waited to publish her first book until she was 85! I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I am sure that Betsy has many accomplishments of worth to her credit but, oh, what a sweet treasure she has given us in this lovely fiction. I am actually choked with emotions at the thought that she might have passed away without sharing it.

I interviewed Betsy, and she told me that there were aspects of the book based in part on events and people she had known, lived or heard tell of during her lifetime. Betsy shared that she wove these bits into her tale, but that Summer Is Her Name really is a work of fiction and not autobiographical. I can’t say I was disappointed, because deep down I had already determined that, for me, Betsy is Summer, whether she says it is so or not. I just want the story to be true; for there to have been a Summer Rogers and a Mont, and for the story of Summer’s life and their love to be real and to last.  I want this badly enough to convince myself that it is so, just as Betsy has written the story out for me. Thank you Betsy, for being you and for sharing Summer with us. You move me.

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