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Cover image for Every other weekend : a novel
Format:
Title:
Every other weekend : a novel
ISBN:
9780316434775
Edition:
First edition.
Publication:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2018.
Physical Description:
282 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
In the year following her parents' divorce, highly imaginative eight-year-old Nenny has a creeping premonition that something terrible will happen, and when this hunch comes true in the most unexpected of ways, she must deal with the fallout.

"The year is 1988, and sun-scorched Southern California is full of broken homes. Nenny is a simultaneously precocious and nervous eight-year-old, adjusting to a newly rearranged life after her parents split. Nenny and her mother and two brothers have just moved in with her new stepfather and his two kids. With her old life replaced by this unfamiliar configuration, Nenny's natural anxieties intensify, and both real and imagined dangers entwine: earthquakes and home invasions, ghosts of her stepfather's days in Vietnam, Gorbachev knocking down the door of her third-grade class and recruiting them all into the Red Army. Knock-kneed and a little stormy-eyed, she is far too small for the thoughts that haunt her--yet her fears are not entirely unfounded. With an irresistible voice, Zulema Renee Summerfield taps into the unease that was bubbling under the surface of life in America in the 1980s, bottles it, and serves it up in devastating, heartfelt, and even occasionally hilarious doses. Every Other Weekend beautifully and unsettlingly captures the terrible wisdom that children often possess, as well as the surprising ways in which families fracture and re-form."--Dust jacket.
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FIC SUMMERFIELD
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Summerfield, Z.
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Summerfield, Z.
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Summerfield, Z.
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Summary

Summary

A debut novel about an imaginative girl in the year following her parents' divorce, and what happens when her creeping premonition that something terrible will happen comes true in the most unexpected of ways.

A Barnes & Noble Discover Pick

The year is 1988, and America is full of broken homes. EVERY OTHER WEEKEND drops us into the sun-scorched suburbs of southern California, amid Bret Michaels mania and Cold War hysteria, with Nenny, a wildly precocious, nervous nelly of an eight-year-old, as our guide to the newly rearranged life she finds herself leading after her parents split.

Nenny and her mother and two brothers have just moved in with her new stepfather and his two kids. Her old life replaced by this new configuration, Nenny's natural anxieties intensify, and both real and imagined dangers entwine: earthquakes and home invasions, ghosts of her stepfather's days in Vietnam, Gorbachev knocking down the door of her third grade class and recruiting them all into the Red Army. Knock-kneed and a little stormy-eyed, she is far too small for the thoughts that haunt her, yet her fears are not entirely unfounded. Indeed, tragedy does come, but it comes at her sideways, in a way she never had imagined.

With an irresistible voice, Summerfield has managed to tap the very truth of what it is to have been a child of her generation, bottle it, and serve it up in devastating, hilarious, heartfelt doses. EVERY OTHER WEEKEND beautifully and unsettlingly captures the terrible wisdom that children often possess, as well as the surprising ways in which families fracture and reform.


Author Notes

Zulema Renee Summerfield's short fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review , Guernica , and elsewhere. Her first book, Everything Faces All Ways At Once , is available from Fourteen Hills Press. A MacDowell Colony fellow, she currently lives in Portland, Oregon.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

An eight-year-old girl named Nenny with a "natural predilection for alarm" is at the center of Summerfield's perceptive novel (following Everything Faces All Ways at Once) about growing up in a fractured family at the end of the Cold War. The anxious third-grader lives in Southern California with her brothers, mother, and two stepsiblings at her new stepfather's house and spends every other weekend with her beat-down dad in his sad apartment. Her mother no longer has time enough to soothe her fears, her stepdad doesn't relate well to kids, and her new siblings resent the intrusion, so a new Brady Bunch they are not. The episodic story flows along through Nenny's upbringing and includes vignettes like a family trip to the trailer park to see if Nenny's stepdad's ex-wife is safe from her new husband. The author occasionally puts adult thoughts in Nenny's head, but mostly the girl's voice is just right and features an authentically childlike logic. Interspersed with the narrative are chapters that spin out Nenny's various fears and obsessions-home invasions, Gorbachev, whether her stepdad killed people in Vietnam-effectively revealing a sensitive child too young to make sense of her changing world. Summerfield goes overboard foreshadowing a tragedy, deflating the dramatic tension a bit. Nonetheless, the conclusion is unsettling and realistic, and fits the way the story evolves-this slice-of-life story, though not heavy on plot, moves clearly and confidently. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

A young girl haunted by an impending sense of doom navigates the year after her parents' divorce in 1980s suburbia."It is 1988 and America is full of broken homes," begins Summerfield's domestic period piece. "America's time is measured in every-other-weekend-and-sometimes-once-a-week.Her children have bags that're always packed and waiting at the door." And so it is for 8-year-old Nenny and her brothers, who split their time between their mother's housewhere they live with her new husband, Rick, and his two kids from his first marriageand their father's grim apartment. But Nenny is anxious by nature, with "a natural predilection for alarm " and a deep-seated belief that "whatever can go wrong, will go wrong," although for most of her lifedivorce exceptedit hasn't. Still, she is haunted by catastrophic scenarios inspired by the news and just real enough to be devastating: They all succumb to drought because her brother left the water running. There is a home invasion or an earthquake. Mikhail Gorbachev storms the Sacred Heart Catholic School and recruits Nenny's third-grade class into the Red Army. Mostly, though, Nenny's day-to-day life is ordinary for a precocious kid growing up in the '80s, trying to make sense of her new family setup. She "draws fashions" with her new best friend, Boots, who lives down the hall from her dad; eats fast food; goes to Disneyland. And then something catastrophic does happen, something horrible and gruesome, something Nenny never even thought to anticipate, and Nenny and her family are left to move forward, together. The details feel perhaps just a touch too familiarthe wise child, the distant dad, the mom doing the best she canbut Summerfield creates a sense of time and of place so vivid the specifics of the plot hardly matter.Moving but not precious, a gently hopeful novel steeped in late '80s atmosphere. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

It is the late 1980s when Nenny's parents divorce, adding hers to the growing statistic of broken homes. When her mom remarries, Nenny and her two brothers gain not only a stepfather but a stepsister and brother, as well. The stress of so many changes ignites eight-year-old Nenny's tendency to worry. Always an anxious child, Nenny's fears span a broad range of things, from germs to earthquakes, robbers, even the Russians. But when tragedy actually does come to her new family, it's not in any of the ways she expects. Then, as Nenny's anxiety spirals out of control, she finds help in the most surprising places in a friend at a new apartment, in the sudden replacement of her old teacher proving that change can bring about good things. Summerfield's first novel is many things a nod to late 1980s news and culture, a case study of divided and blended homes, and an imaginative exploration of childhood fears. Mostly, though, it's the beautifully tender story of an eight-year-old's broken heart and her journey toward mending it.--Ophoff, Cortney Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

MOST DIVORCE LITERATURE focuses ?? getting through the process itself. Few books chronicle the exhausting aftermath - custody calendars and copying your ex on emails and the physical schlep of duffels and laundry baskets. "So long, kiddo, see you next week," is a fairly awful sentence to add to your parenting vocabulary. I spent most of 2014 reading books - both fiction and self-help - about separation. Now, when friends ask me what advice I have for them as they careen toward their own marital devastation, I tell them to start training. Get strong. Build your endurance. Prepare to hurt. Zulema Renee Summerfield's "Every Other Weekend" comes as close as any novel I've read to capturing post-divorce depletion, and she does so from a child's perspective, which is exactly as gutwrenching as it sounds. Almost nothing is as sad to witness as a child burnt out by life - and it is this sensation that lends Summerfield's impressive debut its weight. Eight-year-old Nenny is observant enough to understand the inevitability of her parents' divorce; rather than pining for a parental reunion, she pines for a clear way through the split and into a new life. What she wants, in her precocious way, is not a return to normalcy, but a modicum of predictability. Some of this yearning can be attributed to the period: Summerfield's novel is set in the 1980s, a time when co-parenting wasn't yet really a concept. Nenny's mother automatically becomes the primary parent in her life. She remarries quickly, to a haunted Vietnam veteran, and brings two detached stepsiblings into the family, so that Nenny's home feels full of strangers. Meanwhile, her father takes the proverbial sad-divorced-dad apartment, where many of the novel's most poignant moments occur. Nenny views him with a mix of respect and pity. He extols the wonders of nature during a foul-weathered camping trip, suggests they see multiple movies in one day, encourages Nenny and her two brothers to try all 31 flavors at a local ice cream shop. From all this Nenny determines there is "a mania about Dad that's hard to explain. It was like watching someone lose their mind." But her brother Bubbles comments, "He's just trying to be a dad," as if somehow divorce has stripped him of the title. Divorce can, in fact, cause adults to lose both their places in the world and their minds; adults forcing optimism amid sad upheaval is a complicated kind of madness that often imposes on kids a constant, lowgrade anxiety, and the novel is at its smartest and most convincing when chronicling this phenomenon. Summerfield devotes whole chapters to Nenny's imagined worst-case scenarios, which are fueled by the nightly news. Her mind races more and more as the novel progresses, and a more fragmented version of her psyche takes over in the second half after a tragedy blindsides the already shaky family. Maybe this is why Nenny is so attuned to the instability of the 1980s geopolitical landscape. She ruminates on many of the most famous headlines from the decade, so much so that the news events can feel like unnecessary add-ins, clumsily filtered into a child's day. The novel also traffics in '80s nostalgia, which can sound jarring for a kid who's supposed to be experiencing the era in real time. In short, 8-year-old, third-person present tense is a difficult point of view to pull off in a sentimental novel about a family's dissolution, though Summerfield mostly nails it. "Every Other Weekend" manages to be both funny and fierce as it reminds the reader, through Nenny's charming narration, that children are always paying attention. It reminds us that the world's fierceness, whether in the form of dueling parents or current events, is almost always heavier on their minds than we, the train wrecks they depend on, want to believe. DEAN BAKOPOULOS is the author, most recently, of "Summerlong."


Library Journal Review

DEBUT Summerfield, author of the short story collection Everything Faces All Ways at Once, presents a coming-of-age story set in 1988 Southern California. Eight-year-old Nenny's mother makes the earth-shattering decision to get a divorce, which means Nenny and her two brothers can only see their father every other weekend. As Nenny comes to terms with her parents' split, her mother forms a relationship with divorced Rick, who has two children of his own, forcing Nenny to adapt to a new home with new siblings who are also having trouble adjusting. When Rick's ex-wife is found murdered, the household is turned upside down and Nenny and her brothers are sent to live with their father, while Rick and his family try to make sense of this tragedy. Once again, Nenny and her brothers have to learn to live in an unfamiliar environment while making weekend visits to their mother and the house they were beginning to call home, although clearly things are not the same as when they left. VERDICT Heartbreaking and witty, this first novel portrays the lows and triumphs of family life. Highly recommended.-David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.