I have been really enjoying reading several of L’Engle’s books as they have been brought back to print. It is even better if you can pick them up cheaply. Today (not sure for how long) The Summer of the Great Grandmother is on sale for $0.99. Also on sale is the fourth in this series, Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage and one of her novels, The Other Side of the Sun (a dark southern thriller).
The Summer of the Great-Grandmother is about Madeleine L’Engle’s final summer with her mother. You assume from the beginning that at some point her mother will pass away (and she does.) But that is part of what is important about this book. All people will die at some point. Living in family means both birth and death happen.
The setting of this, like her other Crosswick Journals, is their summer home. It is the home that her children were born in. But now that the family lives in New York City, it is where they spend their summers. This summer, and most summers, there are four generations in the home. But unlike previous summers, Madeleine’s mothers is confused and needing constant care.
This allows for L’Engle to reflect on her early life, the death of her father when she was young, the life of he earlier ancestors and the meaning of life and family. As with the first book in this series, there is lots of wisdom in these pages.
But the wisdom is occasionally hard fought for. L’Engle’s life, and the life of her ancestors, has not always been easy. Death matters. Her father died when she was a late teen from injuries that he received in World War I, but he survived with for years after. We are who we are, in part because of the lives of those that have come before us. Looking into those lives and thinking seriously about what has come before us is part of understanding ourselves.