“A shimmering debut.” –Shelagh Rogers
On the ‘wide, slow river’ in front of his home, twelve-year-old Douglado Montmigny navigates the dark waters of homophobia and racism while realizing his parents’ disintegrating relationship and the complexity of his own feelings for a summertime playmate. Dougaldo’s transitional ‘summer between’ is a lesson on love, desire, and innocence lost.
Back cover comments on The Summer Between
‘Andrew Binks captures, with such authenticity, the adolescent summer we all go through that stretches from not knowing to knowing. In sharp prose, he has written a Canadian coming-of-age story that is pointed, tender and often funny.’ – Shelagh Rogers
‘Andrew Binks has stripped away every trace of adult nostalgia from this compelling tale of boyhood. Every detail, from the persuasive colloquialism of
the voices to the emotional complexity of the characters, is rendered with incandescent accuracy. The Summer Between is a work of love and clarity, writing so real it will make your bones ache.’ – Keith Maillard
Reviews of The Summer Between
There are no lapses worth mentioning in this deftly structured and perfectly inflected story… We watch him revel in love’s beginning and absorb the knowledge of its inevitable change. What a wonderful fictional debut.
-Jim Bartley, Xtra
Indie Reviews: The Summer Between is a poignant and introspective novel that is at times both funny and heartbreaking and that seamlessly fuses universal themes of a boy’s experiences as he embarks upon adolescence with the growing realisation that he is different against the backdrop of the local colour of rural eastern Ontario in the late 1960s. In this respect, Mr. Binks offers the reader an incredibly thoughtful, thought-provoking and bittersweet story of a boy coming of age and at the same time a distinct slice of period Canadiana. By all accounts The Summer Between is an exceptionally written novel that should not to be missed.
-Indigene, Three Dollar Bill Reviews
Prairie Fire:Lost in the torrent of fat, glitzy-covered commercial books that flood your favourite bookstore are quiet, charming novels like this one from Ontario’s Andrew Binks. It’s so tautly written and so direct in its narration, it makes the average bestseller seem flabby.
The Summer Between is Binks’s first book, a refreshingly straightforward novel about one summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy named Dougaldo Montmigny. Told by Dougaldo in his youthful vernacular, it covers some of everykid’s experiences while identifying moments and characteristics particular to the boy, his sister Margaret and their parents.
The Montmigny family lives on a river in rural Ontario, near a town called Baird’s Landing. “A footpath joins all the places,” Dougaldo tells us. “If you keep on it, you’ll just keep going miles past Tomahawk’s place and everyone else’s too. Mom says it’s made by them Injuns and Dad says by the loggers. I think it’s Injuns because we still have trees, no one took them.” (42)
Dougaldo’s father is French Canadian, but “he only speaks French when he swears. Mom doesn’t like any of us to speak French at home” (9). Nor does she approve of Dougaldo’s associating with Tom, or Tomahawk, since he’s half Aboriginal.
Dougaldo welcomes the summer because it takes him away from school, where the kids are merciless in their taunting of him, for being French, for being girlish in his looks. And summer brings Tom to the area. He’s a year older than Dougaldo and wiser and stronger.
Dougaldo is well aware of the homophobia that’s rampant among his peers, and he wants to be like them, but he still feels an innate physical attraction to Tom: “I pick up one of the comics and flip through, look for Bazooka Joe prizes with Tom at my shoulder. He squats, knees to his chest, and his rough feet just touch mine, and I breathe fast from the chill I get. He leans close. His skin so much darker and dark hair on his legs never gets light from the sun. . . . He’s so close. I don’t want to be afraid. I just want to touch him.” (149)
Author Binks moves his narrative chronologically through the events of summer, the trips out in a boat, the visits by relatives from the city, a party for the people from Mr. Montmigny’s newspaper:
Miss Harris, Dad’s secretary, real pretty and I’ve seen her other summers—“A deevorsee,” says Mom—she always brings a different date. She looks like a movie star.
“Why’s she Miss if she’s divorced?” I asked Mom.
“Because she’s a floozy,” she whispers.
“What’s a floozy?”
“Ask your father.” (127)
Then there’s the camp Dougaldo is forced to go to—too much like school, and too far away from Tom.
Throughout, the dialogue is crisp; there is no melodrama, nothing contrived, no flashbacks.
Binks does give little interludes that are scenes from the home movies the mother has made over the years, scenes made poignant by the gradual deterioration of the parents’ marriage.
The Summer Between succeeds as a low-key account of a boy testing his instincts and his upbringing in a natural but ever-more-complicated world.
Dave Williamson is a Winnipeg novelist.
-Dave Williamson, Prairie Fire