The Great Good Summer
By Liz Garton Scanlon
Published 2015 by Beach Lane Books
Ivy Green's mama is missing. She followed Hallelujah Dave to the Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida and Ivy can't really understand why. So, when her new friend Paul says they should go find her, Ivy can't come up with a reason to disagree. But traveling from Texas to Florida with just your saved-up babysitting money and very little information is not quite so easy.
So, this month has been a bit crazy for me, both personally and professionally, and I haven't really gotten as much reading done as usual. Additionally, most of what I read hasn't really stuck with me - there have been a lot of just okay or disappointing reads for me this month. I'm afraid that The Great Good Summer was one of those books for me.
I'm going to go right ahead and admit that the reason I didn't enjoy this book all that much is entirely personal. I am not a religious person and I don't read books that focus much on religion all that often (despite a pretty deep interest in cults and fringe religions). Obviously, from the blurb, I knew this book was going to focus on religion pretty deeply. I was still willing to give it a shot, mostly because I wanted to see how this story would play out (though, as a side note, I find stories of mothers abandoning their children particularly heart-wrenching).
What I will give this book is that it highlights the life of a young person who is deeply religious in a way that one doesn't often see in mainstream fiction. The focus of the book is not on Ivy's religion or her struggle to figure out what she believes (which is often the case with what is typically considered religious fiction) - the focus of the book is Ivy's longing to understand why her mother left and how she can get her back.
But, there were points for me when Ivy's religion seemed like an excuse for her to willfully ignore the evidence and logical conclusions in front of her and that really frustrated me and hindered my enjoyment of the story. Additionally, as I said, stories in which the mother leaves her children behind are particularly difficult for me to read - not that I have personal experience with this kind of narrative but simply because it is very difficult for me to understand the mind of a mother who does so. This example was especially difficult because Ivy's mother leaves to follow an obvious charlatan and swindler with no explanation given to the child who adores her (not to mention the loving husband she also leaves behind).
Ivy's short temper and her reluctance to claim Paul as her friend were also extremely irritating aspects of this novel. I also struggled to believe the entire road trip aspect of the story - it was extremely uncharacteristic for Ivy (and likely Paul as well) and the lack of suspicion on the part of the adults was a bit unsettling.
Ultimately, this was a not a book for me, but I can see this appealing to a particular kind of reader.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.