Title: Dead Eyes in Late Summer
Author: Renée Ebert
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Historical Fiction
Dead Eyes in Late Summer is the vast, ambitious story of a complex—sometimes torturous—decades-long relationship between three people.
Adelyn Jackson of Tulip Junction, Georgia, is just growing into an enchanting young woman when she meets Innis and Garnett Crawford. The attraction is immediate for both brothers, but Adelyn only has eyes for Innis. Years later, when Innis suddenly dies, Adelyn and Garnett find in each other true understanding, companionship and love. But death doesn’t seem to have entirely removed Innis from their lives. What happens when love persists beyond the grave?
The story begins when the plot is at its thickest, with Adelyn as a 27-year-old, in 1931, anticipating the return of Garnett, now her husband. After the early part of their marriage took them overseas, they are back in Georgia living with their kids in her family home. Things aren’t perfect, and the fragile peace is completely fractured when the long-dead Innis suddenly makes his presence known to Adelyn in a most intimate way. The story then jumps back to Adelyn at 16, outlining the beginning of this unfortunate love triangle, then onward to the inevitable showdown between the living and the dead.
Ebert does an insightful job depicting how such a relationship dynamic can form. The three main characters are all flawed yet understandable, their motivations and desires well explained and relatable.
The depiction of time and place is another of the book’s strengths. Evocative prose brings to the reader the sights, sounds and smells of Georgia in the 1930s. The dialogue rings true, as do small touches like the food and drink. Ebert is also adept at capturing the small things that can mean so much in romantic and familial relationships—a look, a touch, a fleeting expression.
The plot is heavily steeped in its historical context, dealing with the aftereffects of World War 1, the Spanish flu pandemic, the Roaring Twenties, flapper culture, and prohibition. This is especially the case when Garnett’s job takes the couple overseas to Paris in the 1920s. They bump up against famous individuals of the time, who are also depicted as complex people with contradictions and shortcomings.
With a plot that sometimes moves quickly from one time and place to another, the reader may at times feel disjointed, or find it challenging to keep track of who knows what—and is acting with what motives—at any one point. Some scenes also contain ambiguity as to the physical action taking place, or who is speaking any one line. But this is a slight distraction.
With its rich settings and charming cast of secondary characters, this story would likely appeal to fans of historical fiction. Those who enjoy romantic drama will be drawn to the complex relationships, while those with a mystic bent will also find an interesting take on how the afterlife can be interwoven with the present.
In all, Ebert has created a story of speculation on what might happen when an obsessive love continues past the grave. How would the dead react? How would the living react? Dead Eyes in Late Summer is about the struggle between this world and the next, as the dead try to use love as a bridge back in the land of the living. It is a vivid portrayal of this other world—the sideways world—and how thin the veil separating it can be.
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