- Written by: Julia Fierro
- Published by: St. Martin’s Press, June 6, 2017
- Length: 400 pages
- Source: I was sent an advanced readers copy as part of a virtual book tour with TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
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.
As you can tell from the publisher’s summary there is a LOT going on in the summer of 92 on Avalon Island. Let me first address the book title and invasion of the gypsy moths. The details of their arrival and their nasty, dirty, all encompassing destruction is a character all it’s on this Ms. Fierro’s book. Her details left me cringing and honestly a little itchy at times. Amazing research and blending them into this story.
The people of Avalon Island are a stark contrast of the haves and have nots. There is class struggle and fears of racial mixing and so many darker themes throughout the book. I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Maddie and her younger brother. They live with an abusive father and a mother who has mentally left them alone. Their grandparents are part of the elitist society and Maddie realizes early on she can’t please anyone.
I was most drawn to Jules, he is married to Leslie, and now that her parents are deceased and have left her the castle he is in love with the grounds, the gardens, the maze, and he is deeply in love with Leslie. He had no idea how cold and unaccepting he would be to all the residents of Avalon.
I had a difficult time getting into this book, it started out great, then there was a lull, and the honestly gross progression of caterpillars to cocoon to moths….all of it devastating. Most of the characters have no redeeming value and it’s easy to dislike them. The few that do sweep you up in their stories break your heart.
I enjoyed The Gypsy Moth Summer, though I don’t think it’s a book for everyone. I think it’s a tragic look at our society, and really is 25 years that far behind us? If you’re a fan of Julia Fierro don’t miss it.
Giveaway***…One copy of The Gypsy Moth Summer. US residents only. Winner chosen on Friday June 23 2017, 11:59pm. Please complete form.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour. For more information about the author and other stops on the tour click here.