In the small town of Heron Key, where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp, everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, maid to the Kincaid family, feels she has wasted her life pining for Henry, who went to fight on the battlefields of France. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.
When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death, suspicion falls on Henry. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. But nothing can prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way...
What did I think?
Summertime starts us off quite gently (for just a few minutes) with Missy, the Kincaid’s maid, trying to cool down in the heat then immediately grabs us by the throat as an alligator enters the garden. Missy freezes in horror and I was almost screaming at her to grab the baby and run! While Missy is still running through all the scenarios in her head, her neighbour Selma comes running with her shotgun! Fire up the barbecue it’s gator steaks all round!
As we are introduced to the whole town of Heron Key, there are quite a few characters in the book so it can sometimes get confusing but the main characters quickly shine through. We learn about Missy’s employers, Nelson and Hilda Kincaid, and their less than perfect marriage despite the birth of their son Nathan. Missy is still living with Mama as she is waiting for the love of her life, Henry (Selma’s brother), to return from war. Thanks to Selma’s Haitian love spells, Henry returns from war and his heart skips a beat when he sees Missy, but he returns with other veterans and lives with them at the veterans’ camp. The veterans are quickly ostracised and when a white woman gets attacked the veterans’ camp falls under immediate suspicion. Meanwhile, a storm is brewing…
It’s quite shocking to read about the degree of racial segregation that was enforced in America back in those days (the book is set in 1935). It is even more disturbing when the storm comes, and lives are at stake, that colour of skin becomes a ticket to safety. I was completely gripped by the whole story of the storm, and I did indeed gasp out loud as the storm claimed its first victim. The ferocity and danger of the storm followed by the temporary peace and tranquillity of the eye was felt in every page and I almost felt like I was living through it with the residents of Heron Key.
This is a work of fiction based on fact so it can't help but reach into your soul and leave an imprint of the events of that fateful day in 1935. It is an amazing story about courage and strength in the face of adversity - fight for what you believe in and never give up hope.