“Just another woman in just another car in just another town only bigger than most, but still just another and no different for us in any of them, in America, where the privacy of what made us girls could only be guarded for so long.”
One December night, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister Summer disappears from their Harlem apartment rooftop. No sign of struggle, just her bare footprints in the snow. It looks as though she simply vanished. With the authorities indifferent to another missing Black women, Autumn must pursue the search for her sister on her own.
From this summary, you might assume that this novel is a traditional thriller, a search and uncover clues type novel. But Speaking of Summer is so much more than that, a mystery that doesn’t uncover itself until the end of the book. Autumn’s unreliability is evident from the beginning as the reader is introduced to her chaotic life among her obsession to find her sister. While at times it seems difficult to believe that Autumn is capable of taking care of herself solely on her freelance writing and marketing projects, most of which gets pushed the side in her effort to solve the disappearance of her sister, the reader begins to realize just how flawed and vulnerable, perhaps even unstable, Autumn actually is.
As time marches on, Autumn’s apartment fills with trash, the bottle of wine pile up, her cash is reduced to next to nothing, her relationship is slipping through her fingers and she is still no closer to finding her sister. What she uncovers instead, however, is the hidden family trauma she has tried so hard to forget. I don’t want to spoil anything for you because the way the novel plays out was what left its impression on me, days after finishing it.
Kalisha Buckhanon has such a delicate and intelligent approach to the complexities of buried trauma, of abuse, and mental illness. This is a story of recovery, of heritage, of what it means to be a black woman in America today, of violence and sibling loyalty. This book is messy, just like Autumn, but it is in that discomfort that these core issues of race, belonging, ethnicity, gender, and mental health are explored.
Speaking of Summer is a haunting, culturally crucial novel written by a gifted storyteller, a fearless writer.
Speaking of Summer
By Kalisha Buckhanon
304 page. 2019