By Julie Kish          

Every Summer After
A novel by Carley Fortune
Penguin Canada, 2022

The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise
A novel by Colleen Oakley
Berkley Publishing Group, March 2023

Traditionally, a “summer read,” also known as a “beach read,” is a book that isn’t too heavy and doesn’t require too much concentration. This is so you don’t lose your place when you’re distracted by the sound of the waves and all the scantily clad people on the beach.

Technically, a “summer read” is any book you choose to read in the summer, and you might prefer to use the long days of summer to tackle a dense, intellectually stimulating novel. There are no rules. 

I’ve recently finished reading two novels that are traditional summer choices. They are both light and thoroughly enjoyable.

Every Summer After will bring out nostalgic memories for anyone who has participated in the summer migration from Toronto to cottage country. Toronto author Carley Fortune has set her debut novel in Barry’s Bay, a real-life small town approximately four hours from the city.

Persephone Fraser (also known as Percy) and Sam Florek, both13 years old, meet when Percy’s parents buy a cottage next door to Sam’s year-round house. Most of the novel consists of stories from their six summers spent together in Barry’s Bay.

Initially, they are best friends but ultimately fall in love. They go off to different universities, and something goes horribly wrong when they meet at Thanksgiving. The result is a painful breakup.

Flash forward to the present day. Percy and Sam are 30  years old, and they haven’t seen each other in 12 years. Percy returns to Barry’s Bay to attend the funeral of Sam’s mother, and the reader finally finds out what happened on that Thanksgiving weekend.

This coming-of-age story includes everything I associate with summer in Ontario cottage country. There are bathroom breaks at Tim Hortons, Live Bait signs, chip truck aroma, Moose Tracks ice cream, and the sensation of jumping into a cold lake.

I want to give fair warning that the story is a little cheezy at times but not excessively so, and there are a few steamy sex scenes.

The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise is a fun story about a spunky older woman and a grumpy college dropout who take a cross-country road trip with the law on their tails. The characters are wonderfully charming, and the story is hilarious.

Twenty-one-year-old Tanner had to drop out of college when a knee injury robbed her of her athletic scholarship. Now she mopes around all day in her sweatpants and plays video games. Her parents are fed up with all her whining and kick her out of the house.

Eighty-three-year-old Louise broke her hip, and her daughter hires Tanner as her live-in caretaker and driver. Cantankerous Louise lets Tanner drive her around but won’t let her do anything else, which is OK with Tanner, who just wants to play video games all day. They begin their relationship by happily ignoring each other.

After receiving a mysterious phone call, Louise announces they must pack up the car and leave immediately. Tanner takes her place behind the wheel without knowing the trouble ahead. Soon, the authorities are pursuing them because prim-and-proper Louise has some big secrets.

Although both women have tough veneers, they realize they can learn vital lessons from each other. This feel-good story of friendship is full of heart, humour and wit.