Hilarious read, yet at times poignant. Great for anyone who loves kids.
September 18, 2014
Just 18 Summers is particularly relevant for many readers because it is about the brevity of parenthood, the struggles parents experience, and at least in the Western culture, trying to balance busy lives with our childrens' need for us to be there for them. Four families loosely connected to each other become the backdrop for the events embroidered on it. Some of the scenes are funny, some are poignant, some are very serious in nature. The book touched my heart in a good way, and I hope it does the same for you.
Butch Browning was suddenly thrown into single fatherhood when his young wife died in a car crash. Butch and Jenny's daughter was 8 going on twenty it seemed. Since the day he received news of his wife's death, he could barely function in real life. He didn't know anything about rearing a little girl. Tippy's wife Daphne was pregnant with their first child. Tippy thought she was high strung before the pregnancy, but now she was fanatical about child care, child rearing and safety, and parenthood in general. He admitted to Butch that she had bought nearly 50 books on the topic. Daphne found some consolation in the scrapbooking group she attended once a week. The group had been started by Jenny, Butch's wife.
Beth Anderson was also a part of the scrapbooking group her sister Jenny had started. It was a bright spot in what looked to be a difficult summer. Larry and Beth Anderson lived in a nice neighborhood. Larry was a great provider which allowed Beth to stay at home with their three children. But regrets reared their ugly heads after the death of Beth's sister. She realized how fleeting life really was, and it hit her hard when their oldest son graduated from high school. Larry, too, felt the crunch of time when he understood this was the last summer their family would experience as a whole unit. When Robin, 21, announced her engagement and upcoming marriage in the Fall, Beth went through full-blown panic, while Larry launched his last ditch effort towards family unity that he called "The Summer of Intense Fun."
Across the hedge from the Andersons were Charles and Helen Buckley. Helen was also part of the scrapbooking group Jenny had organized. They had noticed the sudden frenetic activity in their neighbor's yard--strange games with whipped cream and cherries, rocket-powered kites, picnics, charades, and Pictionary. It was not dignified and Helen was unsettled by it all. Charles hadn't noticed much because he was always away at work.
One of the many things I loved about this book is the humor embedded in the multiple streams of the plot lines. For me, one of the funniest incidents was when the culinary-challenged dad, Butch, was to bake cupcakes for Ava's class. I could only laugh when Tippy showed up with a toolbox, especially later when they lost a screwdriver in the batter. I really have to try using a glass to cut out cupcake shapes from a sheetcake, just once. But the peanutbutter covered beef jerky with M&M's on top really struck my funny bone. How could we not chuckle at such attempts to make little Ava's upside down life turn topside. I give Butch an A for effort.
I enjoy character-based books as well as I like adventure and action books. Characterization is important in this book, especially in the addition of the deceased Jennifer Browning, whose presence is felt all throughout the story. In fact, her absence is the catalyst for the fallout two main characters experience and is the element the authors use to further bind the four families together. Her loss served to create tension; eventually that tension is resolved through the events of the storyline.
Throughout the book, a single theme rings out loud and clear: time is short and you may never recover special family moments if you allow them to slip past you. Because four families are struggling with this basic factor, it tends to get repeated often in various ways. I found this a tad bit irritating. But that's just me. Overall, I give this book two thumbs up and recommend it to parents in all stages of life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
God gives us our kids but we only get them for 18 summers before change sets in through them heading off to college or getting married or leaving home. Instead of getting caught up in all the material things and events like soccer and pageants and homework parents need to remember to spend time with their kids and talk to them. And that is the gist of this story. Sometimes the days will feel really long but just remember, the years are really short.
Four families are key in this book Charles and Helen, Beth and Larry, Tippy and Daphne, and Butch, whose wife Jenny recently died. The first two couples live near each other. Tippy and Butch work together. And Butch is Beths brother-in-law. Their lives intertwine in a small town. All have challenges with their children from fear of doing it right for the unborn baby to did you teach the daughter enough for her to be getting married. They also have battle with insecurity themselves, manifested in different ways. Butch is dealing with not only losing his wife, but also with raising an 8 year old daughter without her mother how can he survive when she lashes out at him Youre doing everything wrong because youre mad at her for dying. Charles, trying to get ahead in business and make lots of money, has his boss tell him, Your kids are far more important than any of this. I figured that out too late. My son is almost thirty years old and I never once took him fishingI ignored him. And now I see my grandchildren twice a year. If Im lucky. Helen grew up dirt poor and fears poverty. Daphane is trying to have a textbook pregnancy, determined to raise her child right, yet All the books in the world wont help you live in the moment, so dont miss a second of it. Ultimately, at the end of the book, the mothers and the fathers realize that merely providing physically is not enough they need to connect with their children and face their own fears.
I enjoyed this book. What a great reminder to parents in all stages of life to do fun stuff with their kids going to a big theme park does make great memories but so does running around on the front yard having a whipped cream fight. And so is sharing your childhood memories. Do your children know why you do the things you do? I thought it was ironic at one point in the story when Beth so desperately wants to teach her daughter how to make an omelet. But Robin doesnt have time and rushes out of the house. Youngest son Ben then comes in to the kitchen and says hed love to learn how to make an omelet, but Beth replies, Honey, not nowGrab the cereal. You can eat it out of the box. What a missed opportunity! I hope that at the end of the book shed have stopped and taught him! I did like that although Just 18 Summers pointed out some things the parents did unwisely, it also highlighted some of the things they did right. Several of the characters sought counseling from a professional. Beth always prayed for her children, both out loud with them before they left the house and also when alone. In the end we see her daughter stressing how important it is to pray just as mom taught her. When your child is born, eighteen years seems like theyll last forever. But it goes by in a blink. You have just eighteen summers to make memories together. You cant go back and rewind those days. Great book!
I was very hesitant to begin reading Just 18 Summers, as I was not really wanting to get very emotional. However, this book surprised me in many ways. Is it poignant? Yes. Did it make me cry? Yes, but not in the way you may think. I was actually crying because I was laughing so very hard. I enjoyed how the authors took these four families and helped us get inside the parents heads and see what was going on and to do it in a way that so mirrors life. I laughed, cried, and cringed with them. And yes, I cried a bit due to the poignancy and the lessons that were either reiterated to me or those that I learned. Reading this book was like watching a sitcom with substance. I even had to read many parts out loud to my daughter and husband. This is going on the list of my top 10 books that I have read this year and I cannot think of another book that had me laughing in hysterics like this one did. I recommend this book to all parents. It was a very satisfying read. I received this book from The Book Club Network, Inc. (TBCN) and the opinions are my own.
Four families face tough life lessons each in a unique, believable, and realist way. A parents worst nightmare comes true when Beth and Larry face an empty nest. Butch is left to face single parenthood after the death of his wife. Daphne and Tippy are preparing for their first child and Charles and Helen want their children to have everything they didnt. Their stories intertwine and make a great story.
I found Just 18 Summers to be refreshing and at times laugh out loud funny. The characters are down to earth and real. I could see me and my own daughter in this story. This is the first book I have read by Rene Gutteridge or Michelle Cox, but I plan to find more books by them. I really enjoyed this book. I recommend it to all that like Christian fiction. This book is worthy of 5 stars. Its a great book for parents in all stages of raising their children.
I want to give a high-five to the authors Rene Gutteridge and Michelle Cox and publisher Tyndale Fiction for bringing compelling Christian books that are entertaining and give hope to the reader with stories of faith. The Book Club Network Inc. provided me with this book in exchange for my honest review and I am so grateful for their, the authors and publishers generosity.
Until reading this book I had never thought in terms that we have only 18 summers with our children. For some reason 18 years sounds like a long time but 18 summers seems so short and far too soon we realize that they have grown up and are ready to start their own lives and families and its too late to do the things with them and for them that we wish we still had time to do. A thought provoking story of how we spend our time with them.
The book is about four families who are having to deal with their grief, quilt, fears and challenges. Lessons for parents reminding us that we need to spend quality time with our children. There is humor that will make you laugh and instances that will bring some tears. After the death of Jenny Browning Butch has become a single parent to his daughter Ava and has no idea how to raise her. Beth who is Jenny's sister and her husband are dealing with the fact that they will soon be an empty nest family. Tippy and her husband who are expecting their first child want to be a good parents and protect their baby. Beth's neighbor Helen who wants everything, her life, her house and her children to be perfect, learns what is really important.
I loved this book. One for all parents and grandparents to read. The authors Rene Gutteridge and Michelle Cox did a great job in writing this story. Loved all of the characters.
I received a copy of this book from bookfun.org for my honest opinion and review.