Naked Summer, by Andrew Scott
At the end of April, I heard Andrew Scott read for the first time at the Newburyport Literary Festival. I wasn’t prepared for what happened to me as he read his quietly beautiful story, “All That Water.” What happened was this: I was bowled over with emotion and I cried. Turns out the friend sitting next to me cried as well. And others in the audience cried as well. As an audience, we were collectively moved by his words.
The thing is that the story wasn’t forcing itself down our throats and saying, “CRY!” Instead, it quietly, subtly moved into our hearts and minds and brought us to a moment of connection with the narrative. And that, my friends, is what I call skill. Andrew Scott has skill, but more than that, he’s got heart.
Each one of the stories in his gorgeous collection, Naked Summer, will move you in some way. I promise you that. They may not all make you cry, but they will certainly not leave you without some sort of emotional connection. You will feel for these people that Scott introduces you to. The boy turning into a man as he is seduced and reduced by the woman across the street. The older couple falling in and out of love in the model apartment in their building. The young couples who struggle to find themselves and each other in this crazy and challenging world. You will see yourself in these stories and/or you will see someone you know or want to know.
After I finished the book last night, I lay in bed and tried to puzzle out which of the lot was my favorite story, but I couldn’t decide. I guess that’s because they all embody the title and the moment from which that title comes (from the story, “Naked Summer”):
Next door, a little girl without a shirt, not yet five years old, ran across her lawn, squealing, chased by her mother, who laughed with arms outstretched. Bobby and Annie watched the scene. “How cute,” Annie said. “It’s probably her last naked summer. Next year she’ll have to wear clothes.”
And there it is: the moment that sums up these stories separately and in their entirety. They are stories which glimpse that moment of joy or pain or despair before the transition into the next stage of life. Stories trapped in amber as we live and die.
It’s an utterly gorgeous book. Go on and read it, please.