My Father's Summers
by Kathi Appelt

Henry Holt and Company, 2004. ISBN 0805073620.
Reviewed by Melanie Alberts
Posted on 10/05/2004

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships; Teen/Girls

Kathi Applet's memoir of prose poems reveals a family separated by space and desire. The theme is the recurring absence of Appelt's father, first due to his career and then to moving in with his second wife and her children. The author chose to write her memoir using poetic paragraphs which rarely fill more than one page. In this manner, many evocative scenes quickly flit by, but the level of poetic writing isn't sustained throughout. The majority of the prose poems read like standard, well-written fiction. One memorable piece titled "Proof" glows with vibrancy as she describes the moment her mother received her treasured convertible:

"[S]he touched the car door like she did when she tested the iron, waited for it to hiss. Whenever I watched her tap her wet finger against its blazing surface, her courage gripped me, made a small flame."

Younger readers especially will enjoy the family photographs which supplement certain pieces. For instance, "Thoroughbreds" is paired with a snapshot of "Cowgirl Kathi" astride a pony. I did wish the book included a snapshot of her alcoholic stepmother Ann who carries the second half of the story. I found Ann to be intriguing, and the lack of a photograph makes her even more mysterious. In the piece "Sisters," Ann says of a peacock's cry, "It sounds like a woman being beaten." Kathi believes her.

Since this tale isn't driven by plot, its essence is best felt when the book is read in one sitting. Appelt's story flows steadily like a daughter's desire for a distant father. It is a love letter to her entire family and an enjoyable read for all ages.

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