Her aunt shot a look at Connie Sue, who raised her eyebrows at Hester and who, in turn, nudged Zenia, who blurted out, “Angie’s havin’ a hip replacement.”
“I-I’m sorry to hear that,” Gwen replied...”
“What Zenia means, dear,” her aunt interrupted, “is that Angie and Thomas aren’t going to be taking the trip with the group… So, I bought their tickets and transferred them to our names,” her aunt said brightly. “We’re going on the trip instead.”
“Surprise!” the S&M club members cried in gleeful harmony.
Gwen’s heart paused, as if not sure whether it should keep beating. The anxiety at the prospect of undertaking such a journey with this nearly insane crew tangoed with the allure of her first foreign adventure. I could see a world I’ve only read about... (from A Summer in Europe p.22-24)
For her thirtieth birthday, Gwendolyn Reese doesn’t receive the expected engagement ring from her boyfriend. Instead, her aunt and the Sudoku and Mahjongg Club present Gwen with a grand tour of Europe. With no ring, Gwen decides to go abroad, her first step in finding herself. Having rarely left the comfort of the Midwest, and uncertain as to whether she is up to spending a summer with her aunt’s crazy friends, Gwen is apprehensive. Yet, it is somewhere between Capri and Sorrento that Gwen has her great awakening. Everything now is vivid, vibrant, and alive; she is alive.
Helping her along is physics professor Emerson Edwards. However, the more time Gwen spends in Emerson’s company, the greater her struggle becomes, as her new passion for culture is not the only awakening Gwen is having. Even though things may be platonic between the two, there’s no getting around the sparks flying from all the sexual tension. From feeding each other linguini and chocolate cake to their unique understanding for each other, I was completely wrapped up in their story. But will Gwen’s renaissance take root enough for her to forget the safety and predictability of life back in Iowa with her boyfriend Richard or will she take a chance in her search for her own passions?
Adding to the amusement of the story was the S&M Club. It didn’t matter if Hester, Zenia and Aunt Bea were discussing The Bold and the Beautiful, which men are “fling-worthy,” or a new way to dispose of someone as a plot for a novel, they had me in stitches. I mean, who expects a sixty-seven year old aunt to encourage her niece to “lose” her hotel key so she will have no other choice than to spend the night elsewhere?
A Summer in Europe was truly an enjoyable novel. I found Brant’s storytelling supreme, her characters real, and Europe breathtaking. In addition to the lovable characters, it was the author’s picturesque language that had me experiencing Gwen’s awakening and Europe first hand. Brant’s ability to take the smallest details and tie them into the major themes and motifs, as well as her perfectly chosen descriptions, wove this story together like one of Zenia’s finely knitted scarves.I was not ready to say good-bye to my new friends or to unpack my bags and put away my passport. In doing so, it would mean my summer in Europe was over, and while entertaining and introspective, A Summer in Europe was a journey I did not want to end.
*Wednesday I will be interviewing Marilyn Brant, who is generously GIVING AWAY a copy of A Summer in Europe!!*
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