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In The Summer We Came to Life, three best friends face tough life choices after the death of their fourth musketeer. The main character Samantha, age 29, just accepted a marriage proposal from an older, successful French movie director. Now she has to decide if she really wants to marry him, and be absorbed into his glitzy world. Her friend Kendra faces an unexpected pregnancy, and must re-evaluate her priorities and the boyfriend she thought she knew. For Isabel, finding a husband is the least of her problems after getting laid off makes her question the very nature of fate and fulfillment in life. The girls’ choices embody the plight of the modern woman – balancing unprecedented freedom with romantic ideals of love.
Welcome to the modern world of dating in the 21st century!
I started thinking about the novel when I was single and in a similar situation to Samantha – living abroad in search of adventure and love and laughter, but not necessarily marriage. Back in Los Angeles, however, a lot of my girlfriends were growing frustrated with their love lives. Nearing the end of their twenties, they finally had it all – burgeoning careers, a platoon of best friend support, and a glamorous social life. Nobody - men or women - was in any hurry to settle down. Then thirty appeared on the horizon, and all us ladies experienced a little stumble in our stilettos. My best friend says we have created an army of Peter Pans in their pajamas. By being independent, successful, and fancy-free, we have fostered a society in which men feel no pressure to . . . be men, i.e. fathers and breadwinners. But didn’t we do it to ourselves? We are so proud of not needing to be taken care of, yet we still want to be wined and dined. Eventually we want to take time off to raise children. Must be very confusing for the boys. And for us, too!
Now I live with my boyfriend whom I adore, and my childhood best friend and two other artists, all of us in our thirties, in an enormous house in the Hollywood Hills. Apparently, we get to make our own rules!
But back then, that’s what I was thinking about as Kendra, Sam, and Isabel came to life - the pros and cons of women’s empowerment, and striking that tricky balance between dependency and independence in relationships.
Around this same time, at the inception of the book, I was also getting to know my parents for the first time as adults. When I returned from Honduras and Kenya, I stayed a few months with my folks in their DC suburb, and began to write the book in earnest. As I started researching Lynette and Cornell’s love story during the Civil Rights era, my mom and dad told me stories I had never heard before – about racism, politics, love, and revolution in the 60’s. It got me thinking about all the ways dating, love, and marriage have changed. And the ways it will always be the same.
So, that’s what we see in The Summer We Came to Life - parents’ stories helping the younger generation of women navigate tough choices about identity and love. Through the horrors of the Iranian Revolution, the heady days of US Civil Rights, and the corrupt world of the ruling elite in 1970’s Panama, we ask ourselves - how are love and marriage different now than in the days of the Baby Boomer generation?
- Deborah Cloyed
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