A Cracking Southern Mystery That Peters Out // Author: Susan Crandall // Rating: 2/5
Synopsis: From the national bestselling author of Whistling Past the Graveyard comes a moving coming-of-age tale set in the tumultuous sixties that harkens to both Ordinary Grace and The Secret Life of Bees.
Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders.
If not for the emotional constants of her older brother, Griff, and her old guard Southern grandmother, she would be lost. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. The dysfunction of her childhood still echoes throughout her scattered family, sending her brother on a disastrous path and drawing her home again. There she uncovers the secrets and lies that set her family on the road to destruction.
I received a print ARC from BookishFirst.com and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and may be different in the final publication. Thank you!
A huge part of my going in to this read was the comparison to The Secret Life of Bees. That is one my favorite books and so well-written and about love between mothers, daughters, and sisters. There are some similarities in setting and time period… and that’s about it.
The Myth of Perpetual Summer sucked me in at the beginning, especially in the flashbacks to Tallulah’s childhood, which was overshadowed by her parents’ tumultuous relationship and where her saving graces were her older brother, Griff, and the meditative rare escape her brother showed her of throwing her worries and fears into the river. Tallulah’s childhood is fraught with problems // a neglectful mother, a father in the throes of mental illness (undiagnosed because of the time), Griff falling under suspicion of murder, town gossip and contempt like a swarm of mosquitoes, and a grandmother with her own secrets guiding her willingness to let her grandchildren go. There’s so much to unpack and explore in the flashbacks, but unfortunately the later timeline is bogged down with a lot of drab declarative narration. This is in part because of Tallulah’s upbringing, which has closed her off as an adult,
As a rule, I don’t pry, lest I be pried upon.
but unfortunately, this dampens and drags down the plot, until suddenly, it’s all pretty much wrapped up.
I think the downfall in my rating for this book was in how the narration was split between the flashback and the present storyline. It might have been more effective just linear. Instead, Tallulah makes it back home, reconnects with her childhood love interest and her long lost brother, and just… overcomes all of her past trauma because ? The book had to end somewhere?
So, yes, there was a sweet spot of potential in the early pages of the book, when the relationship between Griff and little Lulie was engrossing. As the story went on, however, all the clichés snowballed and fizzled out the great crackling firestorm that the story wanted to be. I started caring less and less about the characters and the “mystery” of the grandmother’s secret, and instead felt like the narrative was just tugging me along to the very quiet end.
I used to think if I held my breath, bad things wouldn’t be able to touch me.