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The Last Summer (of You and Me) Ann Brashares RIVERHEAD BOOKS New York Praise for. The Last Summer (of You and Me) A People magazine pick for a . From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Ann Brashares comes her first adult novel In the town of Waterby. Personal Review: The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann. Brashares. I LOVED THIS BOOK. I've seen the Sisterhood movie and when I picked up the book, it.
And every summer growing up, there was also Paul, a close friend to both girls. Now, after three summers away from the island, he's come back. But his return marks a season of change, of unspoken attractions, tragedy, and deep secrets that will launch three friends into an unfamiliar adult world, from which their summer haven can no longer protect them. The narration is divided between the viewpoints of the three main characters, Riley age 24 at the beginning of the book , her sister Alice age 21 at the beginning of the book , and their lifelong friend, Paul age 24 at the beginning of the book , and chronicles an eventful year that opens Paul's return to their summer home on Fire Island after missing the previous two summers. Do love me and let me hate you for a while. Quotations may contain spoilers. Retrieved from " https:
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He scanned the small cluster again, resenting the spasmodic activity of his eyeballs. What if she were different now? As the ferry pulled around the hook of the dock, the sitting girl stood. Her hair blew around her face, obscuring it. Maybe that was the reason he continued to imagine her a stranger even after he got close enough to see.
Ideas and feelings rushed in that he might have rather kept out. She hugged him, putting her chin on his shoulder and her face toward the lighthouse. Her body was numb and her eyes confused her. In a moment of lucidity, she feared he could feel her heart pounding and she pulled away.
She put her head down and gestured to his bag. What was the matter with her? It was just him! It was the same old Paul. He was the strangest of strangers in that he was also her oldest friend. Was he going to laugh at her? He used to do that. He teased her and laughed at her without relent. But if he did that now, she would die.
For leaving for so long and forgetting her. Did you forget me? She was good at being angry with him when he was away, but in his presence she never could.
If she raised her head, she would see others. They all knew Paul. Would they recognize him with his long, clumpy hair and his bristly face? All the things she planned to feel, the way she planned to look and seem, the appropriate things she planned to say.
None of them came to pass. That was what they could do. That would make sense of it. He used to ride three bikes at once. He could do a wheelie without his hands. He had been her hero of bikes. They went directly to the ocean beach. He walked out of his shoes and peeled off his socks, barely slowing down.
He stood on the stairs at the top of the dune, taking it in, and she lingered a few feet behind, breathless to see what kind of beach it was today. A placid, white-sand and sparkly turquoise affair was a Tortola beach after an island in the Caribbean that Paul had been dragged to with his mother. They scorned such a beach.
The Riley beach, also known as Fight beach, was when the little grains of sand whipped like glass against your skin and the surf was ragged and punishing. An Alice beach was truly rare, and it involved tide pools. How familiar it felt to want his wants for him.
That much had not changed. Once Paul told her that the beach was like him because it changed every day but it never made any progress. Later she remembered thinking that a normal person might have begun by saying that he was like the beach. Alice held her hair back, acknowledging that this beach was yet another requiring a name. A Nervous beach. A Gnashing beach. The sand was smooth and gradual, but the surf was wild, the waves coming in at a diagonal pitch.
She was making up her mind not to swim as Paul set off down the decrepit steps. He dove into an olive-colored wall. Alice watched eagerly for his head to pop out of the irritable froth crashing all around. She looked to her sister, who was now standing up in the chair, neck forward in her pose of lifeguard alertness, hands on her hips.
He was beyond the breaking waves but bobbing and buffeted nonetheless. Alice could see Riley muttering to another guard, who stood at the foot of the stand.
She blew her whistle twice. Alice could tell the moment Riley realized who it was. She whooped loudly enough for Alice to hear.
She looked back over her shoulder and saw Alice there. Her whistled dropped. She shrugged and Alice smiled. Riley shouted to be heard over the fresh blast of wind.
Let him drown.
He would never drown. Paul had worked through every phase of lifeguard training alongside her, determined to best her every time.
Though never to his face, she credited him with making her tough. When she got out to the deep water and saw who it was, she wanted to drown him for real. She called him a motherfucker and started to swim back to shore, her cheeks pounding red with fury.
And there was Paul out there, keeping up his act. What could she do? She went back and saved his ass. As she dragged him toward the beach, she gave a ferocious pinch on the back of his neck. It was the only time he writhed authentically.
When they were little, she and Paul were the same. They fought sometimes. In third grade she kicked him to the ground. It was the scar, she thought, that made him stop. She liked the scar. He got quiet and brooding sometimes for no reason she could determine. That was her true opinion. Later he joined weird political groups and tried to organize Central American fruit pickers who were too smart to take any of the crap he was trying to sell.
And yet, she did love him. He was her backup guard and her junior by six years. He agreed, and she jumped down off the chair. She swam out to Paul with a few tough strokes. And so they bobbed around together, skirting a riptide, taunting the waves while Alice looked on from the beach.
Alice suspected it was one of the few battles he could win or lose. The point was getting over there early. His house was enormous and stood between their house and the ocean. His house had seven bedrooms and a TV, and it was clean and had a shelf full of good cereal. Alice sensed that young children instinctively preferred the life inside a small house to a big one.
Paul did appear that morning, though not in his pajamas. But she checked herself, wondering if that was the kind of thing they did anymore. He came the customary way, from the back door of his house to the back door of theirs. But the sand passage through the phragmites was thirty steps at the most, and undetectable to the outside world. He seemed to forget his own words as he poured his cereal. He never minded being watched. She stated it as a simple matter of fact. Do you want to borrow them?
She put the box down. She uncrossed her ankles. She chewed the inside of her cheek. Not because she was particularly good at it but because her Uncle Peyton had once given her a barber set with the good scissors. And otherwise you had to go off-island. Could she cut his hair? Now was not as good a time as later, when he would forget about it. Is that okay? Paul sat on the edge of the tub, just the way he used to do.
Riley stood in the doorway, a look of amusement on her face. She had to force herself into the orbit of his head. His face now related to her chest as hers usually did to his. He looked up at her, and she felt as though she were made of nostrils. You can do it however you want. Alice nodded. It was funny the things the three of them talked about. Often it was the concrete things they hung upon.
But it was all the stuff in the middle that came to preoccupy you as you grew older. They talked about the big storms, the houses that washed away, the old promenade that once lined the ocean beach and now lay deep under the waves. It allowed them the freedom to let the conversation meander and stall. Alice held up her scissors and snapped at the air a few times. She touched her hand to the top of his head for a start.
It was warm and made her think of duck-duck-goose. She felt the stubble of his chin against her forearm. She had the feeling of crying creeping up her throat. How she had missed him. She grasped a clump of his brown hair and cut.
She remembered that she had always liked it. Each piece she cut at the base of the clump curled sweetly and lay down on his head. It was more docile, less complicated than the other parts of him. Riley was standing still for longer than usual. Riley went back downstairs, and they heard the screen door slam and settle. Alice held a clump at the nape of his neck and made him shiver. These things had always meant something to her. She held his chin to steady her cutting hand against his cheek, perhaps not strictly by necessity.
She looked at his cheek, his jaw, and felt the reassurance of being near him. The next winter Alice had knitted him a scarf in green, gray, and blue to remind him of the ocean.
Her yarn was her proxy to touch him, to keep him warm, to make him remember her. Alice fell into a meditative mood, lulled by the sound of her scissors.
She evened, trimmed, shaped, and smoothed. She felt a fullness in her heart and in her throat. She felt his head loosening on his neck, giving in to her hands, trusting her. How long since she had felt this particular feeling in her muscles? In spite of everything, she felt such pathos for him. She always had. Even though he was older than she. Maybe it was because his father died. Alice remembered her own mother telling her how at a few crisis moments when he was small, Paul had turned to her instead of Lia.
She called Paul Paulo, but only she was allowed. If Riley or Alice did, Paul would punch them. Apparently, his mother meant to name him after a heroic uncle, a spy supposedly, who died in World War II, but his father, Robbie, meant to name him after Paul McCartney. She thought it was odd the way Paul acted as though he did not speak Italian even though they knew perfectly well he did. They blamed her for everything that happened with Robbie.
Paul was their only grandchild and supposed heir to the gigantic piles of money, which Lia was spending as fast as she could.
She knew these things only from her mother and father, never from Paul. Riley remembered it. Only the lawyers called Lia. He did not get along with his mother but he would be loyal to her. It was the main way, as far as Alice could tell, that he managed to love her. Lia spent most of her time in Italy since Paul left for college. When she was in the United States, she found endless faults with it—the food, the pace, the language, the music. Alice hated that and faulted her mother for having ever told her.
Her mother was too keen on information, too quick to believe in the neutrality of facts just because they were true. Paul almost never talked about his father, and when he did, he acted as though he remembered him perfectly. Maybe that was the case with people you wanted more than was good for you. Alice let her scissors clatter into the sink. She stood still, her hands on his head, one over his ear, the other at the back.
She held him there, her head bowed to his. She felt the bones of his cheek and chin against her shirt, the bits of stubble catching in the weave of the cotton, his breath pooling in the wrinkles. He was with her; he was here. She was scared to even breathe. The screen door rattled in the kitchen. He lifted his head. She stepped back. He looked at her for a moment but said nothing.
She retrieved her scissors and with shaking hands put them back into their plastic case. He stood and regarded himself in the mirror. And she realized he had completed the transformation back into the Paul she knew. They had done it together. That was the moment she would dwell on. When she bent over him, he smelled a new Alice smell, perhaps cleaner than the old Alice smell but still related and deeply stirring.
Why had he done that? What had it meant? You could try to discount it. But it was there between them. His distress and pleasure mixed and married, giving birth to several anxious children.
But what else did he have? The trick was to have what he had without destroying it, if that was possible. Could you even do that? Could you interrupt the cycle? Could you make the world hold still? There was nothing new in loving Alice. He had always loved her, even when he was mean to her. He remembered it, and he had been told so. She was fat and wordless and comforting to him when she was a baby. In some ways, he found it hard to distinguish himself from her.
He felt disloyal for having kept growing after she had stopped. She was something else, neither more nor less but not the same. Kids like Megan Cooley and Alex Peterson started up spin-the-bottle and truth-or-dare parties in the back room of the village library.
Riley hated it, and Paul was afraid of it. Alice, at ten, copied her indignation from them. As a band of children, they had laid a magical world over the topology of this skinny place, spread it from ocean to bay. Both he and Riley realized this world was fragile. It would sink unmarked into the sea if they let it.
Bodies were being snatched left and right, but they had each other to remind them what was true. They would lash themselves to the mast of prehormonal bliss and sail through the storm that way.
And if ever anyone said it was untrue, they would know that evil was whispered in their ears and the enemy was at hand. They would not talk. They would not give in.
But what would happen when they came out on the other side of the storm? Alice had been easy to enlist at the age of ten.
The rest had been looking backward. Trying to remember what was true rather than seeking it. They were holy men divining the ancient book, judges interpreting their constitution. But time went on, as it will, and the seasons changed.
What did not accord with the covenant Paul did not tell Riley and Alice. He went ahead and lived those seasons, all the while feeling that his real life lay here, on this beach in the summer, with Riley and Alice. It still existed between them. He could feel it even now. You could go away for months or years, but it was still here, bound to what you loved, binding you to it. Alice kept it out of loyalty, he suspected. And for him?
It was a Friday night, so she was not stunned to see her parents turn up. Ethan was a history teacher and coach at a private school in Manhattan during the school year and taught summer-school courses and tutored through July and most of August to boost his income.
Her mother copyedited and proofread textbooks and pitched articles on child-rearing and related subjects to a handful of editors she knew.
And what have you got on tap? Within moments of being near them, she felt her eyeballs rolling skyward. Even if she kept her eyeballs still, she could hear the tone in her voice. Most people tread lightly over what they have and dwell heavily on what they have not, but in that sense her father was original.
He thought as often about keeping his hair as balding people thought about losing theirs, and the extent of his pleasure easily matched the extent of their distress. Her mother was blond. Though it was dyed blond, she felt as though she had a right to the color because she had once been blond.
She spoke out against blondes who had no natural claim to it. Alice had begun to picture herself in the future with dark hair. Though Riley spent most of her life outside, she had never been blond. She had dark hair that tangled easily, as Alice knew from her attempts to trim it. Even when she was little, she never let Judy brush it. It was always cut straight around to a length somewhere between her chin and her shoulders, often tucked behind her ears.
Her hair made her look younger than she was, and her freckles made her look even younger than that. Since about the age of thirteen, Alice had grown used to being mistaken for the older sister. What got tiresome were the protests of disbelief when Alice corrected the mistake. Her mother was asking only because she wanted to make Alice recite them, not because she cared what they were.
Year after year, the food at the yacht club was bad. Alice walked back to the kitchen. If she got the order in fast, she could get them out faster. They watched her expectantly, beaming like parents as she came over.
It was strange the things you knew about people here. For everything Mrs. Kimball did or said or wore, even the way she served a tennis ball or ordered a glass of wine, Alice felt her loss. She knew that Mr. Barger, who settled in at table four, had left his wife the very day their youngest kid, Ellie, went to college. Barger too close to the new one. Barger erupted. How else was she going to earn money here? She was taking out massive loans for law-school tuition, and still she needed more for living expenses.
You had to work twice as many hours here, because the pay was bad. The pay was bad because most of the families were prosperous and the kids were working for show. By day she had her regular babysitting jobs, but by night. It brought to mind the problem of babysitting for the children of family friends. Well, there was little tip to be had or lost. It took all of her courage to face him with the sailor hat on.
He said her name. In one way, she loved that he had bothered with all the nicknames through the years though she was sad when she heard him call other kids by the same ones. In another way, she wondered what the problem of saying her name was and whether perhaps he had forgotten it.
She thought of his cheek against her body. How close he came and how far he went while she just waited. He could practically smell his old adolescent sweat. Paul remembered how black his feet were throughout his childhood summers, and the approximate moment when his mother started to notice and care.
The paint on the walls was the same. He loved how dirty and ramshackle their yacht club was. He loved the scummy, giddy air and the cheerful slap of the screen door. He liked the degree of exclusivity: If your check cleared, you were in. He liked that it had no yachts, that in fact the harbor was too shallow to host any. It was his father in him, he suspected. Robbie had grown up in a better age for radicalism. After a three-day disappearance when Paul was four years old, Robbie had died alone of a drug overdose in Bellevue Hospital.
The green felt on the pool table by the windows was scratched and hopeless from years of play by small amateurs. The PingPong table on the other side of the room was given its proper use only sporadically, when someone remembered to get balls on the mainland. Summer days stretched out so long you could easily spend a whole rainy afternoon adapting the Ping-Pong table to a game involving tennis balls. Riley was good at inventing games like that.
She liked creating the scenario. She liked rules but she always saw the larger promise. The stage with the tattered blue curtain was the venue for the talent show held at the beginning of each summer and the Labor Day show at the end. Paul and Riley did a magic act one year and a boomerang demonstration the next, but both had ended badly. Later, they scorned the shows. They made like they forgot it was even happening. He could never remember the plot of a single movie he watched here, but he remembered the feeling of all of them.
When they got older, the kids would gather at movie night but not stay for the movie. He lived with a different housekeeper every summer from age twelve to age eighteen. Paul spent all his time next door anyhow. Kids got their independence younger here than in other places. There had been alien abductions. Or so it had seemed to them. Rosie Newell, for example. The movie projector was busted for the third week in a row, so most of the little kids had gone home.
And then there was Alice, of course, who must have been ten at the time. He remembered sitting on one side of Riley, with Alice on the other. He remembered that Riley was wearing the T-shirt they had tie-dyed for an arts-and-crafts project at camp the year before.
It was a clear glass beer bottle, Corona, Paul remembered. She looked suspicious. She went ahead and spun the bottle. Paul remembered staring straight ahead as the shame and agony unfolded. He remembered the feeling of blood pounding in his temples. Paralyzed, Paul stared straight ahead as the bottle spun slower and settled.
Riley was already on her feet. Rosie stood, too, looking mischievously at him. He remembered Rosie walking toward him straight through the middle of the circle. He stood up and took a step back. Riley cast a look at the part of the circle where their friends sat, Alex, Michael, Jared, Miranda. The girly-girls had always resented Riley for being the leader, for being the one girl all the boys wanted to play with.
Only Alice tagged along after them.
Riley never held still on the beach unless she was sitting in the lifeguard chair. She swam constantly, she surfed under the right conditions, she was a wizard with a boogie board in shallow water.
She liked volleyball, and in the old days, she loved building sandcastles. Even now Riley gave no thought to sunbathing, and she never read a book or even a magazine, as far as Alice knew. Alice remembered long ago sitting in the kitchen at the little table across from her mother in their apartment in the city. It was winter, she recalled. It was already dark in the late afternoon, and Alice wore thick socks around the apartment instead of bare feet.
It was near the school where Ethan taught history and coached wrestling, and where Alice had gone since kindergarten. It was after Christmas, Alice remembered, because Riley had gotten the dolphin book wrapped up under the tree.
Riley had left it on the kitchen counter, and Alice had picked it up and started reading it for her mother. She was showing off, she knew. Her brain did not turn any of the letters the wrong way, and she felt guilty for it in retrospect.
She blasted through all the words, hard and easy, until her mother noticed and came around the table to admire her. Alice always had an easier time being bad at things than Riley did. Now Riley leaned into Alice, so their arms and shoulders were pressed together.
Is it good? Whatever their differences, their physical closeness was never awkward or strained. The body of her sister was not quite like a separate body. She used to do that when she was smaller. Riley jumped up and offered Alice two hands. Together Riley and Alice had made tremendous sandcastles. Alice still had the ribbon hanging over the door of her room in the city and a photo of it stuck to her bulletin board. What Alice offered was the patience of execution.
Their winning castle was a cloudlike fantasy, a feat of design. It was so tall the girls had to build scaffolding out of sand to construct the top. During a swim, Riley misses an important opportunity to receive a heart transplant. While the rest of her family is upset over this, Riley insists that they stay out of her business, saying that she can take care of herself. Meanwhile, Paul, studying philosophy at NYU, is constantly thinking about Alice and his feelings towards her.
Still unaware of Riley's condition, he is bitter and angry towards Alice. He even attends an old island acquaintance's wedding with a beautiful date to spite her. Riley finally tells Paul of her medical problems, admitting that she isn't entirely sure she wants a heart transplant. He donates the money to Bellevue Hospital , where his wealthy but wild-living father died long ago.
One night back in the city, Alice returns from work to find Riley has died. The funeral is held and Alice and her parents go to Fire Island to spread her ashes.
Alice volunteers to tend to the beach house, as the family has decided to sell it. Paul turns up one day, discovering his house has been sold to a new family whose children Alice babysits each morning.