THE SUMMER WE CAME TO LIFE by Deborah Cloyed, Book Review

The Summer We Came To Life by Deborah CloyedThe Summer We Came To Life Synopsis

Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends—Isabel, Kendra and Mina—on a vacation, somewhere exotic and fabulous. Together with their mixed bag of parents, they’ve created a lifetime of memories. This year it’s a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends—the closest thing she has to family—Mina’s death has left Sam a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend’s surprise proposal, it’ll be the wrong one.

The answers aren’t in the journal Mina gave Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation’s stories of love and loss, and Sam’s glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.

Genre: Romance, Drama, Science-Fiction-Fantasy

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Do not be fooled into thinking Deborah Cloyed’s debut novel, The Summer We Came to Life, is your average chick-lit. It is something far more substantial. I was hooked from the opening paragraph.

Birth and death are the two occurrences in a person’s life that seem to say one thing: we are not the ones calling the shots. “The only consolations are love and best friends.” That’s what Mina told me two days before she died.

This story is principally told by Samantha as she transitions from mourning to self-discovery on the anniversary of her best friends passing. While I personally did not identify with Samantha as much as perhaps intended, fortunately for me Deborah Cloyed packed many other wonderful characters and their own backstories into The Summer We Came To Life. Childhood friends Isabel and Kendra and their mothers and their partners also come along for the holiday. For me, it was the older generation’s experiences of inter-racial marriages and cross-cultural experiences (Iran Revolution, US Civil Rights, Panama) that I actually found most compelling.

Deborah Cloyed is an author with something important to say, and The Summer We Came To Life an ambitious debut.

Samantha’s friend Mina has a powerful voice throughout the novel via a series of journal entries made to her friends Samantha, Isabel and Kendra before she died.

Love is not inevitable, Samantha, like you seem to believe. It is a gift. It is the thing that wraps you up like a plush bathrobe to insulate you against cold, illness and all of life’s indecencies. It is the thing that makes you less naked in the mirror of reality. It blankets you. It warms you.

I am not a big believer in the whole life after death concept and thought this being a feature in The Summer We Came To Life‘s storyline might hamper my enjoyment – it did not. Credit also to Cloyed for her skill in penning conversations involving several characters.

This is one sad story, but it is tempered by levity when required to ultimately provide a cathartic and very worthwhile reading experience.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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About the Author, Deborah Cloyed

Deborah Cloyed lives in Los Angeles, in Humphrey Bogart’s old room with a view. As a photographer, travel writer, or curious nomad, she’s previously resided in London, Barcelona, Thailand, Honduras, Kenya, and New York City. She’s travelled to twenty other countries besides, several as a contestant with her childhood best friend on CBS’ The Amazing Race. She runs a photography school for kids and is happily at work on her next book – a nonlinear love story set against the political violence in Kenya 2007-2008. (From Deborah Cloyed’s website).

Other Reviews of The Summer We Came To Life by Deborah Cloyed:

Romance Books Forum, Autumn Blues Reviews, Genre Go Round Reviews, Impressions of a Reader, ChickLit Reviews

* I was provided an ARC of this novel from Rare Bird Lit for review purposes. My receiving this book for free in no way affected my ability to express my honest opinions about it.