A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant

If you've been to my Examiner page you've seen my review of this book.
I do not, however, assume that I am the kind of writer that has a 'following' wherever I happen to pop up. So, I'm posting my thoughts about this book here because it is a truly extraordinary book.

In fact, it is so extraordinary that you should plan to buy it even before you know anything about it. Really. It's just that good. But, on the off chance, that you are more careful with your time and money or you'd like to find out what the book's about anyway

This is a story about Gwendolyn Reese. She's from a small, midwestern town and she's lived a carefully controlled life. Her Aunt Bea is exuberant and vivacious and and when Bea's mah-jong and sudoku group has extra tickets for their European tour Bea buys them for herself and Gwen. After sustaining a relationship disappointment and seeing her summer stretching into oblivion Gwen agrees to go along.

Gwen sets about touring Europe the same way she lived her life in Iowa - by a timetable and checklist until a couple of things happen. Gwen really begins to look around and notice the true wonder of Italy, their first stop, and realize, with her aunt's help, that there's no way she could ever see or appreciate everything there is in the few days they have on their tour. And their group of senior citizen puzzlers is joined by their 'sister group' from the UK and it turns out that this group is not full of octogenarians at all. In fact, there are two brothers, both in their 30's and full of life, who are very dramatic, very competitive, and one of whom is very taken with Gwen.

This isn't lost on Gwen but does pose some difficulty, in that Gwen is in a committed, allbeit, unfulfilled, relationship. I'll let you know now that Gwen chooses the high road and you'd be very proud of her! She and Emerson remain friends through the tour and it is in this blossoming friendship that Gwen and Emerson learn so much about their own selves.

But you could probably have learned this from reading the jacket cover.What I can also tell you is that this is a book full of incredibly rich language and beautiful layers of story. It's a story about relationships and families of many types and people who have chosen, or had chosen for them, different kinds of families. It's about epiphanies and those moments where we find ideas laying just ahead of us around the corner. It's about learning about life from the people around us and seeing the world through their eyes and knowing that you're understanding is richer for it. It's about life and aging and questions of death. It's about food and travel and coming to terms with the 'shoulds' in our lives and making new plans for ourselves when we don't like the ones we've made. It's Gwen's journey but it's the journey of everyone in this story in some way and I think you'll find that it's your journey, too.

Are you ready to head off for A Summer in Europe? I just bet you are. I know. It's not out yet. [It's available Nov. 29, 2011] Do a pre-order and you'll get it soon and then you, too, will find that you can't put it down. In the meantime, Marilyn Brant has a couple of ebooks that I mentioned recently before I even knew about this book - seriously. Hope on over to that page and take a look.


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