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The Summer I Dared - Barbara Delinsky

The Summer I Dared

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IN THE spring of 2003, Barbara Delinsky was haunted by three quite separate events – the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, the sniper attacks in Washington DC, and a tragic night club fire in Rhode Island.

In each case, the victims were people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And it set her thinking – about the other victims, those who survived. What effect, she wondered, would a close encounter with death have on their lives?

This then, became the inspiration for her deeply moving novel, The Summer I Dared in which just three people out of a total of twelve, survived a boating accident off the coast of Maine.

The fortunate three were Julia Bechtel, a 40-year-old wife and mother, pigeonholed by her controlling family and increasingly distant husband as ‘loyal’ and ‘obedient’; Noah Prine, a divorced, brooding lobsterman from the quiet island of Big Sawyer who had helped save Julia’s life; and Kim Colella, the 21-year-old whose role in the accident and subsequent muteness was a mystery.

The Summer I Dared is a beautifully written story that dares to tackle a subject that is as pertinent today as it has ever been.

By her own admission, Delinsky has drawn on her own life/death experience – she was diagnosed with breast cancer almost a decade ago – and given her characters a second chance; a chance to change their lives for the better but, more importantly, to appreciate what before, they had merely taken for granted.

The Summer I Dared is also part love story, part who-dunnit and as such, will enthral in equal measure.

But what makes The Summer I Dared such a compelling read, is the absolute credibility of the characters. Julia and Noah in particular, are as human as you or I and, given the circumstances, react not as heroes of a two-bit novel, but as real people.

And Delinsky’s descriptive prose is exemplary. New England mists waft from pages awash with ocean spray; while Maine lobstermen, the men whose livelihoods depend on the sea, are brought to life with discerning expertise .

In fact, it’s sometimes difficult to believe that Delinsky has never set foot on a lobsterboat. As for the interludes with Angora rabbits, they are nothing short of delightful.

Put simply, The Summer I Dared is an extremely good book; one with a clear message – to make each day count. What a pity it takes a tragedy for us to heed such sound advice.