CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 8 . . . . December 15, 2000
A large raindrop butted my forehead.The summer may have been silent, but there was plenty to occupy the lives of Minnow and her three elderly relatives. A reluctant, teenage Minnow arrives at Lake Birch to spend the summer holidays with her grandmother, Yanny, Aunt Anna, and Uncle Cliff. Minnow comes to know her unconventional grandmother by the grandmother's strong reactions and opinions, particularly those concerning the death of her friend and the building of a modern resort with all of the ensuing hustle and bustle. Aunt Anna, who has chosen to be mute, spends her time with her plants and watches over Minnow as she adapts to and begins to enjoy her surroundings. Anna also assists Minnow with her plan to duplicate the challenging annual swim that her mother undertook as a teenager. Uncle Cliff, who spends his time resting and writing poetry, shows Minnow the humor in events of their daily lives. When a neighbor, Montgomery Moore, moves in after his home burns down, he and Anna fall in love.
That Silent Summer is not only Minnow's story but also that of her grandmother and her aunt; however, neither of their tales develops into the central plot or theme of the novel. The major dilemmas of the story are those of Yang and Anna while Minnow is the catalyst that assists them in resolving their problems. Medline cleverly uses the device of having Aunt Anna speak in a conversational tone in order to draw the reader into the story. The story is narrated from Aunt Anna's perspective, and so it is her thoughts and insights that the readers come to know. Though Medline's elderly people are treated with tenderness, they often behave as caricatures. Because of Medline's focus on the seniors' stories, thoughts and actions, this novel will be an interesting addition to a to a Middle Years study of the elderly. Students could examine the issues that concern elderly people and discuss the stereotyping of the aged. The pacing of That Silent Summer is exactly like that of a summer holiday, relaxing and laid back.
Kathleen Kirk is the teacher-librarian at Linden Meadows School in Winnipeg, MB.
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