Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Publication: April 19th 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Paperback, 269 pages
Buy: The Book Depository
Invincible Summer takes place over the course of several summers, during which the McGill family, not very put together in the first place, completely falls apart, only to reassemble itself entirely out of order, like a tile mosaic made out of pieces that don't quite fit, in colors that don't quite match.When you think about it, the same happens to most families sooner or later, and therein lies the true strength of this book.
Invincible Summer is a quiet little book, a great example of postmodern literature heavily influenced by Camus’ existential prose. I took my time reading it, which is highly unusual for me. The McGill family was so easy to slip into, but then I’d suddenly feel the need to remove myself from their drama, run from them like the oldest brother Noah does all the time, and read something fun that has very little to do with real life.
This drama I mentioned isn’t the loud, obvious drama of soap operas. It is the quiet torture of being in a large family in which all the roles are reversed. Chase struggles with being closely connected to his large family, and yet somehow feeling isolated at the same time. His parents keep having more children, even though the oldest, Noah, is already eighteen years old and the youngest, Gideon, is deaf and requires a lot of attention, and despite the fact that they can’t seem to find common ground about anything at all. The family is full of paradoxes: they are extremely loud in everyday communication, but when they have a problem or a disagreement, they refuse to communicate. Two youngest (healthy) children, Chase and Claudia, are the most responsible ones, taking the role of parents to Gideon far too often. Noah, the oldest, feels very affectionate towards his family, but he can’t stand to spend much real time around them, so he often disappears without a trace for hours or even days at a time.
Chase is going through his sexual awakening, suddenly aware of every girl around, especially his brother’s girlfriend Melinda. 12-year-old Claudia is drawing attention to herself by kissing waitresses in restaurants, Gideon is struggling with sign language and communicating in general, Noah is more restless than ever, and their parents are physically present, but completely absent in every way that counts.
Behind me, Mom and Dad are bitching softly to each other about something. I want to make Melinda watch. I want to tell her that this is what comes of relationships that weren't meant to be.
From what I’ve read, most readers had issues with the overwhelming presence of Albert Camus in this book. He is everywhere, constantly quoted by characters and obsessed about, but he can also be found deep underneath the characters and the plot. His influence on Moskowitz herself and the structure of her novel is clearly discernible: if you think about it, the overly melancholic tone and strong sense of detachment are all reminiscent of Camus’ most famous work. Invincible Summer is very much an existentialist book. That part I didn’t mind, I’m a fan after all, but putting poor Albert in the mouths of teenage characters took away from their credibility and made me cringe several times. That is the only flaw I found, and one that is easily forgiven.
In Invincible Summer, Moskowitz did what she does best – she created characters that are impossible to forget and wrote a story that isn’t really a story at all – just a glimpse into a family’s existence: the disagreements, the tragedies, their love and connections. She’s not one for obvious drama, our Hannah, and yet, what could possibly be more terrifying than everyday life itself?
Reading this book, it is incredibly easy to forget that Hannah Moskowitz is ridiculously young. In her case, all that means is that she has many great books ahead of her. At 21 years of age, she is a force to be reckoned with.