Published by St. Martin's Press on June 6, 2017
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours for review consideration.
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
"THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER plunges the reader into a hazy, hot daydream of hidden truth, scandal, and racial prejudice. With bold strokes, Julia Fierro creates a vivid world where privilege and class are merely a veneer to distract from the cracks beneath the surface." -- Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of SMALL GREAT THINGS and LEAVING TIME
It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island--dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island's leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.
It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall—only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family—returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in “The Castle,” the island's grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.
Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island's bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island—and its patriarch, the Colonel—be to blame?
As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie’s and Brooks’ passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.
Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders; a plotting aged matriarch and her husband, a demented military patriarch; and a troubled young boy, each seeking his or her own refuge, escape and revenge, THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.
Julia Fierro’s debut novel, Cutting Teeth, was a super enjoyable read, so I was pretty excited when I heard she had another book coming out. The Gypsy Moth Summer did not disappoint.
It takes place in 1992 on a small island off the coast of Long Island, and Fierro’s portrayal of the 90s is spot on. She even nailed the cringe-inducing, casual prejudice that infiltrated the speech of the time. I’m around the same age that the main character, Maddie, would be today, so there was a lot of nostalgia going on for me (although my high school experience was completely vanilla in comparison).
This book is heavier than Fierro’s first novel, and impressively far-reaching. These characters are dealing with classism, sexism, misogyny, and racism—internalized racism, too. They’re exploring their sexualities, coming of age and learning to be comfortable with themselves. There’s abuse, multi-generational family dynamics (and dysfunction), declining health and aging. And probably the most difficult theme of all the themes in the book: The fears Black fathers have for their Black sons. It gets downright uncomfortable. You have to sit with that discomfort, let it play out, listen and learn.
The Gypsy Moth Summer is not a fast read. There’s a lot happening here, and its topics are complex, intertwined. Reach for this book when you want something atmospheric, and when you want to linger on the characters and get to know them on a deep level.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Check out what other readers have to say about The Gypsy Moth Summer by visiting other stops on the tour.