Book Review: The Summer People


Published today by Canongate Books is a short story collection, ‘Get In Trouble’, by Kelly Link. Kirkus Reviews described this author’s stories thus:

“creepy little wonders that open out into worlds far vaster than their shells. In a Link story, someone is always trying to escape and someone is always vanishing without a trace. Lovers are forever being stolen away like changelings, and when someone tells you he’ll never leave you, you should be very afraid.”

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to receive a little book containing the first of the tales from this collection titled, ‘The Summer People’. It follows “an Appalachian schoolgirl, abandoned by her moonshiner father, as she looks after a summer house occupied by mysterious beings.”

The story opens with the protagonist, Fran, lying ill on a couch in her run down home being told by her father that he is going away. He instructs her to take care of the summer people, who at this stage appear to be seasonal residents whose homes Fran and her father service and maintain.

Left alone and unwell Fran calls on Ophelia, a fellow pupil at her school, for help. Neither girl appears to have many friends and Ophelia is eager to please. When Fran sends her on a mission to a curious, old house with a mandate to ‘be bold’, Ophelia finds herself drawn into a plan she does not fully understand.

The story brought to mind traditional fairy tales, not of the Disney variety but rather of the Brothers Grimm. Fran is imprisoned by circumstance and senses a chance to escape. Ophelia, through her loneliness and good nature, becomes a pawn.

The narrators voice is culturally distinctive and the story has layers of meaning to be mulled over. What may seem desirous, especially when no other life is known, can prove elusive whatever the time or place.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Canongate.


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