The Summer Demands
A moody, psychological, and compulsively page-turning novel of one woman’s shifting ambitions and desires over the course of an aimless Massachusetts summer at an abandoned summer camp
Emily and her husband meant to fix up the abandoned summer camp they’d inherited; instead, Emily finds herself grieving a miscarriage and her missing ambition alone while her husband, David, works in the city. That is, until she discovers Stella, a guileless young woman squatting in one of the abandoned cabins. Their immediate and intense connection expands and contracts over the course of a dreamlike summer, calling all of Emily’s relationships into closer scrutiny.
A smart and accessible summer must-read to be devoured in a single sitting, The Summer Demands begins with no preamble; we are immediately plunged into Stella's appearance and the consequences that unfold
Shapiro is a master at exploring the inertia of ambition, at sprinkling sharp little daggers in her sentences, and at involving the reader as a bystander in her taut, tense, and subvertly sexy plot
Paradoxically very little and yet so much happens over the course of a short amount of time in this slim novel, where characters' nostalgia and (lack of) control propel the story forward
The Massachusetts lakeside camp setting for The Summer Demands is evocative and menacing and dreamlike, and will remind readers of their own summers on the brink of adulthood
The Summer Demands is a wryly intelligent look at women’s interior lives that calls to mind Rachel Cusk’s Outline, is page-turning like Edan Lepucki’s Woman No. 17, and deftly explores complex relationships like Julie Buntin’s Marlena. Shapiro reflects on relationships among women wherein there is a substantial age difference, and how the act of watching, viewing, judging ourselves and women changes as we age, and as we have more of our life to look back on.
The Summer Demands is also a look at the transitional points in our lives; nearing forty and grappling with the idea that she may never be a mother, Emily finds herself experiencing a summer out of time, at a place she knew intimately as a child, and delicately exploring what might be next
Shapiro is a well-connected journalist who’s written for New York, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, and more, with ties to Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Her debut novel, The Sun in Your Eyes, was a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice.
Bookseller Praise for The Summer Demands
"A summer camp, maybe a chance to change directions in life. Well, yes, that is possible. Who knows what a summer will bring when you discover a young, beautiful stranger living in a cabin on the property you and your husband just inherited. Or what comes next when closeness becomes a reality, and then Alice arrives to complicate matters. Diving deeply into the mind and heart of Emily and her past, Ms. Shapiro brings us the reality that isn’t found in reality TV. Self-discovery can be a painful experience, but it can also set us free to find a brighter, wiser future. I think you’ll enjoy this one!" —Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore (Spokane, WA)
"A beach read for the introspective set looking to read something cover-to-cover in a day. Both heady like a balmy night and refreshing like a dip in a cool lake. Shapiro captures a portrait of an aching and confused woman and lets her breathe in the exuberant air of summer." —Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)
"Emily doesn't know what to do with herself. She and her husband had plans to renovate the camp she inherited from her aunt, but work has stalled. With no other job prospects in sight, she is adrift in a listless echo of the eternity of childhood summers. So when she discovers a magnetic young woman staying on their property, she is more intrigued than alarmed. Despite her better judgment, Emily is drawn to Stella, and they quickly become very close—friends, or maybe something more. But a powerful current runs beneath their relationship, one that threatens to become an undertow. I was enchanted with this dreamy novel, with the questions Shapiro raises about intimacy, identity, and purpose. With its hypnotic pacing and prose, The Summer Demands is as seductive as a secret." —Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books (Portland, OR)
"A nuanced and emotionally compelling portrait of a woman in her forties recalibrating her life and identity through shifting interactions with a young woman squatting on her property. Their relationship strays across lines of friend, daughter, lover, and even self, as seen through a flawed lens of introversion, grief, and midlife crisis. Engaging but also dreamy, the perfect summer read." —Genevieve Taylor, Boulder Book Store (Boulder, CO)
"The writing is elegant! Love it." —Joanne Berg, Mystery to Me (Madison, WI)