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May 20, 2023

Suddenly That Summer by Lori Handeland ~ a Review

by  Susan Roberts

1967 They called it the Summer of Love . . .
For small-town Wisconsin siblings Billy and Jay Johnson, it’s a summer of change, confusion, and self-discovery.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel Suddenly That Summer by Lori Handeland
March 2023; Indie; 979-8986966489
ebook, print (354 pages); historical fiction

The Summer of 1967 was called the Summer of Love but in reality, it was the summer that changed the country and began the divide between people that has only gotten worse over the years and affects us today. This was the summer of the hippies, free love, sex, drugs, and rock &roll.  More importantly, it was the year that young Americans began to question their government and the war in Vietnam.  It was a summer of protests and marches - not only against the War but also for women's rights and civil rights.  It also increased the chasm of beliefs between the young and the older people.  I was in college during 1967 and even though I wasn't much involved in political issues, I can tell you that the people and events in this book ring true to what was going on.

Billy and Jay were a brother and sister who lived in small-town Wisconsin.  They both fervently believed the government and supported the war in Vietnam.  Billy had been called a coward by his grandfather for his entire life and as soon as he graduated from high school, he volunteered for the Army.  As was the norm, he quickly went through a shortened basic training and was soon stationed in Vietnam.  He soon earned the nickname Slayer and was a sniper that the Viet Cong Army wanted to capture.  As he starts to question the war and the killing, he becomes closer to the men in his unit.  Billy begins to wonder if he is there for the mission or the men or if, maybe, his mission has become these men.

Jay's plans for the summer are to enjoy life with her three best friends to help alleviate her worry about her brother.  She is still very supportive of the government's stance in the war but then she meets a boy.  Not just any boy but Paul, a handsome boy from California who is very opposed to the war. She is torn between her lifelong beliefs and her support of her brother but is beginning to believe what Paul and the anti-war movement are telling her. Will her new beliefs make her best friends turn from her or will they too change their lifelong beliefs?           

This book is told in alternating chapters by Billy and Jay.  While Jay endures the heat and the bugs and the fear on a daily basis, Jay is having fun with her friends.  While Billy is becoming a sniper to protect his friends and ultimately his country, Jay is beginning to question her long-held beliefs in the government.

If you grew up during this time, this book will bring back a lot of memories like it did for me.  If you are younger, this would be a good book to read to better understand what really happened during the summer of love and the years that followed.

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.

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