“You are really a mystery, a riddle, aren’t you? And you enjoy it. You are one of those people who can turn the currents in a room toward them or away from them, as they choose, isn’t that so? And you enjoy it. About such things I am never wrong.”
Summerlong is a fairy-tale in a sense for the grown-ups. It is Greek Mythology in the form of a waitress named Lioness that a middle aged couple is drawn to and let’s find refuge in the garage of Abe’s home. Abe, what to say. Abe and Joanna have a relationship that works for them both, though it lacks excitement. Each keep their own homes, share Johanna’s daughter Lily and have a strong relationship and family unit. Lily falls in love with the mysterious Lioness, in fact in a sense they all do. Magic happens with her around, she is a spark in each of them. Abe and Joanna come into their own and life seems to blossom with Lioness. Things they wanted to do suddenly become something they must. But there are things they don’t understand. Why is she cold? What is she frightened by, who is Mr. Mardikian and what does he mean to Lioness?
I felt tired with Abe and Joanna, life just wears you out. In a sense, Lioness is about feeling alive again. The fantastical story begins simple, as mundane as any of our lives. Then an injection of magic, everyone is flipped over on the boat of life and they end left trying to make sense of all that has happened and put themselves back together. Joanna tells her daughter Lily, “Baby, life is mostly getting over stuff. One of the very, very few things I know for sure.” That in a sense is something to chew on with this story. And there is quite a bit to get over after Lioness.
Lily sometimes seemed far younger than her age. I think some people will wonder at that, but it worked for me. Some people are more fragile, and in Lily’s enrapture with unrequited love for Lioness I thought of how she could represent many of us at some point in life, investing so much of our heart with someone who doesn’t want it.
This was such an unusual read for me, and I remember having the same feeling about the version of The Last Unicorn I watched as a young child. I never read the book. It’s this suspended reality, sometimes eerie, often hungry feeling. There is tenderness and simplicity that suddenly turns, you spin for awhile and then at the end everything is different. Not necessarily bad, nor good, just upside down and changed. Lioness is a disruption, where she showers energy and brings good or messes their simple existence up is hard to say. I admit to feeling a bit unhappy with the way things go between Joanna and Abe, it begs the question if Lioness had never arrived, then what? Where would they couple be? What would they have become without the otherworldly goddess?
Life goes on. It goes on and on. I recommend this to people that love fantasy, but Beagle is his own genre.
Tachyon Publications- Publication Date September 30, 2016