by Peter S. Beagle
Review by Gayle Surrette
Tachyon Publications Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616962449
Date: 13 September 2016 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle begins slowly establishing the characters and the setting. Abe Aronson and Joanna Delvecchio have been in a relationship for twenty plus years. He lives on Gardner Island. She has an apartment in Seattle, but spends a lot of her time with Abe on the island. He's a retired professor of history. She's a senior flight attendant on the Seattle to Chicago/Chicago to Seattle flights. They're not married but are as much a couple as two people can be after so many years together. Abe helped raise her daughter, Lily. They know each other's jokes, favorite foods, hot buttons, hobbies and, in part, their dreams. They even have traditions such as what to eat on certain days and when and where to eat out.
One such tradition is to eat at the Skyliner, a diner that looks like an old streetcar. The Skyliner had a new waitress, Lioness, who reminded them of a young woman in a Botticelli painting, "Pimavera, by God". In talking with Lioness, they learned that she was looking for a place to rent that wasn't as cold as the room she currently had. Abe and Joanna offered Abe's garage. Lioness accepted.
Such an offer was out of character for Abe and Joanna but it seemed right at the time. Lioness worked to get the garage livable, but still her history was a mystery to her new landlord. But, since she was no trouble, just a puzzle, it didn't seem to matter.
Spring was coming early to Gardner Island and everyone was glad to be looking forward to summer. Now and then Abe or Joanna would notice something strange happening and usually Lioness was tangentially related somehow. But then it did seem strange that the weather seemed to be much milder on the island than elsewhere, so much milder that the weather on Gardner Island made the news.
So far this seemed more a book about relationships, and seriously lacking in a fantasy element. However as story progresses the reader notes a distinct feeling of things being just a bit off. There seems to be something going on that just doesn't seem to fit with reality as we know it, or are these events just weird natural events?
The unease builds up slowly. Mostly nothing big is happening, it's the little things piling up. Astute readers may begin to get a feeling that more is going on than the words on the page seem to be conveying. I know that I started googling some names that I thought might be related to what was happening. Maybe you will too and if you find your guesses to be on target you may feel suddenly the tension builds up faster. But it would have eventually been clear to the reader anyway.
The story builds slowly throughout. The points of view moves among Abe, Joanna, and Lily, but it keeps the reader engrossed as the relationships shift and change and the background of the characters are revealed to the reader. The ending is inevitable, but the changes in the lives touched by Lioness may or may not be for the best. But only the characters themselves can attest to that, while the reader may think things could have been different.
An excellent story of love, relationships, and responsibility with much to think about after the last page is read.