INVINCIBLE SUMMERS is a gorgeous meditation on history and family, innocence and experience. Gaines has created an unforgettable character in Claudia, but by following her through eleven years of her life, she shows us how each one of us is many characters throughout a single lifetime. Her voice and sensibility changes, and we change with her, as the years pass and events alter her time and place and self. At the end of this novel, we’ve lived alongside of Claudia, and the world’s many mysteries, and those of the human heart, have been laid bare. This is the kind of reading experience for which literature was invented.
Laura Kasischke, Author of The Life Before Her Eyes, Suspicious River, and White Bird in a Blizzard. She is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, 2012, for Space, in Chains.
Invincible Summers explores the agony of family. The story begins with the death of Claudia Goodwin’s father, and then plunges into the murkier emotional trouble that follows for years. Through the 1960s and 70s, the world around Claudia moves on. But her loss walks along with her. Gaines deftly manages that loss and the way it floats through time—not shrinking but morphing, not fading but fusing to all of Claudia’s experiences. As the chapters progress through two tumultuous decades, they show how parents fumble their own children, how siblings abandon one another, and how people become itinerant and self-destructive. This is no simplistic tale of self-discovery, nor is it a dirge. It is, in Claudia’s own words, a restless search for nowhere fueled by moments of whimsy, humor, and hope. I am glad to have read Gaines’s fine debut novel and look forward to her next.
John Mauk, author of The Rest of Us and Field Notes for the Earthbound.