That Summer, by Jennifer Weiner

That Summer delivers everything I expect from a Jennifer Weiner novel: an engaging, believable, flawed heroine (two or possibly three in this book, actually), a complicated relationship and a conflict that tugs at the heartstrings, and a satisfying resolution. Daisy is in her 30s, married to a wealthy, successful man several years older than herself, parenting a difficult teenaged daughter and running her own small business when she meets Diana, a confident, successful, polished businesswoman who unexpectedly becomes her friend. By the time Daisy realizes that Diana is not everything she appears to be, she’s in too deep to turn back.

That’s one way to tell this story. Another way is to say it’s a story about “that summer” — about a fifteen-year-old girl’s encounter with an older boy on summer vacation, and how the end of that brief romance touches every aspect of that woman’s life for the next thirty years.

Here’s another way to tell it: this is a story about revenge. In this way, it’s strikingly similar to the last contemporary novel I read and loved, Joshilyn Jackson’s Mother May I. Both are about the consequences of an act of sexual assault committed by wealthy, privileged young men whose position in society virtually guarantees they will get away with it, that an indulgent world will look at them and say, “boys will be boys.” Both novels are about women who decide, years later, that they will get revenge for what happened to them. And both novels are also about women whose lives are turned upside-down by another woman’s desire for revenge, women who are forced to confront the reality that their lives may be built on foundations of lies.

The common thread — how can men be held accountable for “youthful indiscretions” that have thwarted women’s lives — ties these two novels together, although the tones are very different. While Mother May I has the tense, fast-paced thrum of a thriller, That Summer, though not without it twists and intrigue and suspense, has a slower, gentler pace, focusing more on the unlikely friendship between Diana and Daisy as they both confront the past sins of the man whose life has changed both of theirs. I found this a very enjoyable read.

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