Beyond the Shadows of Summer a novel by Jonathan Zemsky, is a story told by protagonist James Sayer, of his quaint Midwest town, in America during the 1950's. A year before the summer of '55 James loses his younger brother, Brand, to a rare blood disease. This death emotionally tears the Sayer family apart and creates a distance between James and many of his closest friends. It also restrains James from doing the things that he loves; drawing and baseball. Beyond the Shadows of Summer is a coming of age novel, set for most of the story in a showground, in which the main character must learn to appreciate the difficulties of growing up in a racist society, the importance of friends both young and old and the extraordinary emotions that first love can bring. During the summer of '55, when James has only experienced 14 short years of life, he is able to discover what is really important to him. While defeating a bully, standing up for what he believes in and accepting new friends, James is able to retrieve his life back. Once James gains the perspective and the strength to accept his brothers death, he is capable of properly treasuring and celebrating Brands life, by journeying through his own and repairing all that was broken.
After reading Beyond the Shadows of Summer I was quite pleased and impressed. Overall I really liked the book. I liked the depth of the plot and the entwined character relationships. I enjoyed the style of the writing as well as the intelligent and thorough description that the protagonist uses in speech and thought. I did think however, that this was slightly advanced vocabulary and sentence structure for 14 year old boys, even in the 1950s. I found this book slightly slow to start as I struggled to find a way to relate to the characters and their situation. But as I read on I became enthralled with the story line and found myself turning pages quickly to uncover the resolutions. I think that the author was able to evoke substantial emotion through his writing of especially scenes where James reflects on his brother's death. I found myself at times comparing aspects of this book to Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, I believe this would be due to the time both novels are set and the leading black male influences on the main characters. I liked the way that the show ground setting for this book was so much fun and so easily visualized. Zemsky made it easy for the reader to feel as if they were in the very same place as the characters. By large this was a book I really enjoyed. At times I felt that it was more inclined to males and for that reason I would recommend it to teenage boys from age 13, whom would relate and understand the more masculine emotions expressed by the characters. That said ,this was a very worthwhile read whose story truly intrigued me. I will look forward to any more of Zemsky's insightful and captivating work.
Reviewer City, State and Country: Melbourne, Victoria Australia