THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER by Julia Fierro
St. Martin's Press
My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A wonderfully written coming of age story.
THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER is a charming and eloquent tale of a community with more going on than what is on the surface. It is how the author created the town as well as its inhabitants that is where the true beauty of the book lies. The interactions between characters as well as their reactions to certain situations within the book are core of this narrative.
This story is heavy at points and the fact that the book does deal with some weightier issues might have been why this book took me a while to read. I went back and forth with it for a number of weeks. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t one of those books that I devoured. This does not mean that it wasn’t good. It just means that it took me longer to get into. However, Fierro’s exquisite writing is the main reason that I kept on reading.
Reviewer Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for my 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.
About the Author: Julia Fierro is the author of the novels The Gypsy Moth Summer and Cutting Teeth. Her work has been published in Poets & Writers, Buzzfeed, Glamour, The Millions, Flavorwire, and other publications, and she has been profiled in Brooklyn Magazine, the L Magazine, The Observer and The Economist. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, she founded The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop in 2002, which has grown into a creative home to 4,000 writers in NYC, Los Angeles, and Online. SSWW was named “Best Writing Classes” by The Village Voice, Time Out New York, and “Best MFA-Alternative” by Poets & Writers. Julia lives in Brooklyn and Santa Monica with writer Justin Feinstein and their two children.