In Ann H. Gabhart’s Summer of Joy, the Brooke family members deal with the changes in their lives by trusting in God. David Brooke is trying to figure out the best way to pop the question to his beloved Leigh, while his daughter Jocie is facing the wrath of her impossible English teacher. Unexpected visitors and life-altering developments threaten the family’s tightly knit circle of cherished relationships. As the Brookes and their loved ones face these situations, they lean on one another and learn to break free from their own insecurities.
Set in a small Kentucky town in the 1960s, Summer of Joy uses the perspectives of different characters to tell the story. However, it stays in third person, so the reader-character connection has a mediator and is not completely personal. The relationships between characters are very strong. Jocie is very close to her father and to Wes, whom she claims as her adopted grandfather. Leigh becomes more closely attached to the Brooke family throughout the novel, as her relationship with David becomes more serious. Old connections with different characters cause several of the conflicts within the story. Leigh’s parents, David’s ex-wife, and Wesley’s grandson cause worry and tension that may or may not be necessary. The novel is mostly slow-paced until the very end, and much of it is spent recalling the events and effects of the past.
David Brooke is a preacher and newspaper editor in the small town of Hollyhill. His family is loved by his congregation and the rest of the town, but they are not without their problems. Once David finally works up the courage to ask Leigh to marry him, an obsessed secret admirer causes trouble for Leigh, David, and Jocie. Leigh’s parents are not too thrilled about their daughter getting married. Across the country, Adrienne, David’s ex-wife, is dying of breast cancer and must decide what to do with her last days. Zella, who works at the newspaper with David, reaps the consequences of nosily digging into Wesley’s past when his grandson shows up at her door. David’s other daughter, Tabitha, is an unwed mother who is likely to face discrimination because of the ethnicity of her baby.
David Brooke is a wise, much-loved man with a wonderful family and many friends. He is greatly respected in the community, and he gives great advice and encouragement. He tries to live as God wants him to. However, David is insecure about himself and is afraid that he is too old for Leigh and that there is no way she could love someone like him. Ironically, Leigh is insecure about her appearance and is afraid that there is no way David could love someone like her. Jocie is a confident, joyful freshman in high school, who has a knack for writing and prayer. Being abandoned by her mother when she was young left her with emotional scars and insecurities of her own. Wes is a new believer and an important part of the extended Brooke family. He is quirky and secretive about his past, but loving and caring.
Summer of Joy is an easy-to-read, light novel, full of God’s love being demonstrated through believers in their everyday lives. The title is misleading, because only the very last part of the book actually takes place in the summer. The plot is interesting, but not very surprising. Summer of Joy might be a good pick for older Christian adults, especially women. Laura Coulter, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
The past is coming to call. The town of Hollyhill is buzzing with anticipation--a wedding may be on the horizon, if only David Brooke can find the nerve to pop the question. But all is not as it seems in the quiet Kentucky community. Whispers of mistakes from the past are threatening to destroy the relationships that everyone thought were so strong. Two people--one David thought was gone for good and the other no one's ever heard of--are making their way to the small town and promise trouble. With true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor, and lovable characters, Summer of Joy will delight and surprise you right to the very end.