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The Myth of Perpetual Summer
Table of Contents
About The Book
Tallulah James’s parents’ volatile relationship, erratic behavior, and hands-off approach to child rearing set tongues to wagging in their staid Mississippi town, complicating her already uncertain life. She takes the responsibility of shielding her family’s reputation and raising her younger twin siblings onto her youthful shoulders.
If not for the emotional constants of her older brother, Griff, and her old guard Southern grandmother, she would be lost. When betrayal and death arrive hand in hand, she takes to the road, headed to what turns out to be the not-so-promised land of Southern California. The dysfunction of her childhood still echoes throughout her scattered family, sending her brother on a disastrous path and drawing her home again. There she uncovers the secrets and lies that set her family on the road to destruction.
Reading Group Guide
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When Tallulah James returns to her Mississippi hometown in 1972 after a seven-year absence, determined to help her brother escape a murder conviction, she hopes to avoid the small-town gossip mill and return to California as quickly as possible. But as Tallulah reconnects with her dysfunctional family, she becomes entangled in a web of long-held secrets about their history of mental illness, her tumultuous upbringing, and a terrible tragedy that nearly tore the family apart. Ultimately, the truth forces Tallulah to reckon with her past—and find a way forward.
Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think Susan Crandall opens the novel with Walden’s arrest before revealing Tallulah’s backstory? How did your impression of Tallulah and her family evolve as the flashbacks unfolded?
2. In what ways are the Jameses a product of time and place? How would the novel be different in another setting?
3. Crandall depicts Margo’s activism in stark contrast to her selfishness as a mother. Why do you think Margo is outraged by social injustice but blind to the needs of her children? What fuels her outrage?
4. Does The Myth of Perpetual Summer reinforce or challenge any preconceptions you had about the 1960s South?
5. Discuss how the different characters perceive racial discrimination and the Civil Rights Movement. What do their various experiences and responses to racism say about them?
6. While Tallulah envies the stability of Ross’s family, she understands that their expectations for him are stifling in their own way. Which would you prefer? Ultimately, is Tallulah’s family her millstone or salvation?
7. How are the James children defined by their parents’ actions? Discuss how each of the siblings emulate and/or resist Margo’s and Drayton’s behavior.
8. Discuss how Tallulah’s childhood point of view shaped your impression of Drayton’s behavior in the flashback chapters. How did your understanding of his mental illness shift over the course of the novel?
9. Drayton tells Tallulah that history is like “dominoes set in motion on one era toppling those in the next” (pg. 72). How does this theory bear out for the James family? What does it take for Tallulah to break from the past and gain agency over her own life?
10. “Gran says family traditions are what give meaning to life,” Crandall writes (pg. 304). “But that’s not it. The family itself, if we accept it for what it is and not condemn it for what it is not, can be the fiber that weaves a rope that pulls us out of ourselves, and into a world where we’re willing to take an emotional risk.” Discuss the distinction here between tradition and family. How does the latter empower Tallulah to come out of her shell?
11. Why do you think the “ugly parts” of the James family’s history bring some of the siblings together and drive others apart?
12. Toward the end of the novel, Gran characterizes the cover-up of George’s death as “a lie of convenience that was meant to spare pain, not cause it” (pg. 316). What do you make of Gran’s obsession with keeping up appearances? Do you see her commitment to upholding the family legacy as shortsighted and harmful or practical?
13. Gran tells Tallulah that “hurt and anger make a strong person brave and a weak person broken” (pg. 317). Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
14. Discuss the ending of the novel. Were you surprised that Tallulah returns to Lamoyne? How is she able to make the family plantation a happy home despite her painful memories?
15. What do you make of the title? Did your perception of the “myth of perpetual summer” change over the course of the novel?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Host a Southern-style brunch for your book club discussion. Don’t forget the mint juleps and the pecan pie!
2. Read up on the Civil Rights Movement and discuss how your learnings inform the historical backdrop in The Myth of Perpetual Summer.
3. Cast your film version of The Myth of Perpetual Summer. Which actors would you want to play the main characters, and why?
4. Read one of Susan Crandall’s other historical novels (http://susancrandall.net/susan-crandalls-booklist). Discuss which is your favorite, and why.
5. Learn more about Susan Crandall by checking out http://susancrandall.net/ or following her on Twitter @susancrandall.
- Publisher: Gallery Books (June 19, 2018)
- Length: 368 pages
- ISBN13: 9781501172014
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Raves and Reviews
Praise for The Myth of Perpetual Summer
"In The Myth of Perpetual Summer, Susan Crandall introduces us to Tallulah James, a woman who fled her the tragedies of her Southern childhood only to be drawn back to save the brother she left behind. Crandall, long known as a master for her works such as Whistling Past the Graveyard, blends with virtuoso skill the themes of loss and redemption, love and hope, while answering the question we all ask ourselves: Can we indeed go home again? Fans of Joshilyn Jackson should run for this stunner of a book."
– Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale
“Beneath the boiling sun of small-town Mississippi, the remarkable life of Tallulah James unravels to expose profound family dysfunction, lies, and long-buried secrets. A coming-of-age story filled with heartbreak and hope that proves the only way into the future is to face the past.”
– Beth Hoffman, New York Times and internationally best-selling author of Looking for Me
"Beautifully written and deeply satisfying. A heartfelt story of love, loss, and the twists and turns a life can take. Susan Crandall once again delivers a character you’ll root for on a journey you won’t soon forget."
– Wendy Wax, USA Today bestselling author of Best Beach Ever
“The Myth of Perpetual Summer is a fully imagined coming-of-age novel both heartbreaking and inspiring. Tallulah James is as endearing as she is indelible, a worthy heroine to anchor this story of family dysfunction, social unrest, and a girl's journey to womanhood. Susan Crandall has done it again, and this stunning book is sure to attract fans of The Glass Castle as well as readers everywhere looking for a remarkable story of hope, perseverance, and the enduring power of family.
– Karen White, New York Times Bestselling author of Dreams of Falling
“The Myth of Perpetual Summer is a wonderfully crafted, poignant,and absorbing novel.”
– Mary Ellen Taylor, author of The Union Street Bakery
"A gorgeously-crafted story of a young women caught between the old South and new, her bohemian upbringing and the old guard, and finally between the lies that destroyed a family and the truth that will stitch them back together. The Myth of Perpetual Summer is the kind of luminous, immersive book that will haunt you days after you've finished reading."
– Emily Carpenter, author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls
"Family secrets, town gossip, and a glass of sweet tea make for the most delicious of Southern tales! Susan Crandall takes us on another spell-binding ride to small-town Mississippi and straight into the heart of Talulah James who loves her family no matter how flawed or broken."
– Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
"Crandall explores both the long-lasting effects of family dysfunction and the strength it takes to move beyond childhood trauma in this compelling, atmospheric coming-of-age story ideal for fans of southern women’s fiction by Sue Monk Kidd and Karen White."
– Booklist (Starred Review)
“Susan Crandall weaves a compelling, heartbreaking saga and a sensitive portrait of mental illness… Laced with sweet tea and pimento cheese, Crandall's novel is as Southern as it is satisfying.”
– Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness
Praise for Whistling Past the Graveyard
"A coming-of-age story as well as a luminous portrait of courage and the bonds of friendship. . . Susan Crandall tells young Starla’s story with pitch-perfect tone, evoking 1963 Mississippi and its struggles with a deft hand. I laughed and cried at Starla’s keen observances of life and family and the sometimes blurred edges of justice. Like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Whistling Past the Graveyard is destined to become a classic.”
– New York Times bestselling author Karen White
“Crandall delivers big with a coming-of-age story set in Mississippi in 1963 and narrated by a precocious 9-year-old…Young Starla is an endearing character whose spirited observations propel this nicely crafted story.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Starla’s fiery independence makes her a likable narrator.”
– Publishers Weekly
"A delightfully complex story about defying the odds to find the gifts we have tucked inside us."
– Shelf Awareness
"This is a work of imagination in the mind of a 9-year-old child that might remind you of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird or Kathryn Stockett's The Help... It's a real winner!"
– Liz Smith, The Chicago Tribune
“A luminous portrait of courage and the bonds of friendship, this coming of age story is as endearing and spirited as they come.”
– Shape Magazine
"It’s not easy to keep such a young narrator convincing for more than 300 pages... Readers will take to Starla and be caught up in her story."
– Mary Ellen Quinn, Booklist
“Crandall threads historical detail throughout the book as the struggles of the civil rights movement are vividly portrayed…Crandall’s young narrator captures the reader’s heart.”
– Library Journal
"WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD is a multi-layered saga that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. It has a cinematic quality that will make readers wish for a screen version. And you can’t say better than that."
Praise for The Flying Circus
"Susan Crandall’s The Flying Circus is a fascinating story of love and loss set against the colorful background of barnstorming 1920s America. Every detail sings, and every character will touch your heart in this rip-roaring tale of three daredevils on the run, each with something to hide, drawn together by a desire to conquer the skies as well as their own demons. Romance, suspense, aerial thrills and spills—what more is there to ask for?”
– Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of THE AVIATOR'S WIFE
"The Flying Circus is Susan Crandall at her best—a colorful, rich and historical tale of the early years of flight. Heroes and villains and an achingly sweet romance will pull at the reader's heart long after the last page is turned. I loved this book!"
– New York Times bestselling author Karen White
"An exhilarating, memorable flight into the world of barnstorming in the 1920's, with all the twists and turns of an aerial acrobat. Compelling characters and a fascinating setting make this journey a sheer joyride. Satisfying and delightful!"
– Lynn Cullen, national bestselling author of MRS. POE
“Exciting adventures abound when three unlikely misfits take to the skies. Friendships are challenged, lives are risked, and dark secrets threaten to tear the trio apart as they barnstorm across America’s heartland. A spirited, big-hearted tale.”
– Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of LOOKING FOR ME
"Deeply moving. A richly drawn story of love, loss, and redemption with characters as finely tuned as the planes they fly."
– Wendy Wax, USA Today bestselling author of A WEEK AT THE LAKE
“An engaging road saga."
– Kirkus Reviews
“An entertaining surprise… this old-fashioned novel plays like a refreshed mash-up of William Faulkner’s Pylon and the 1970s Robert Redford vehicle The Great Waldo Pepper.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Historical fiction with appeal to both romance and adventure fans.”
"Crandall has crafted a wonderfully charming, memorable and thought-provoking read."
– RT Book Reviews
“Crandall has written an absorbing and frequently touching story that reminds us of the challenges of forming new communities with different people—and the rewards.”
– USA Today
'Beautiful, stark and heartbreaking, The Myth of Perpetual Summer by Susan Crandall dares to examine the idea of what happens from one generation to another when family members keep secrets to themselves rather than sharing them with others, and the consequences are tragic in terms of effects on family members as they each begin to wrestle with their own fears and desires in realistic ways."
– Fresh Fiction
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