Published on August 13th, 2020 | by Nature Humphries0
Local Author Lisa Howorth’s Latest Novel, “Summerlings,” Is On Shelves Now
It’s been a highly weird summer with a lot of uncertainty to come. Why not distract yourself with a good book?
Dubbed “a vibrantly voiced, heartfelt, and charming Cold War coming-of-age story,” Lisa Howorth’s Summerlings is available now at Square Books and various other merchants.
This is Howorth’s second novel, and she has contributed widely to both Garden & Gun and Oxford American.
John Grisham called Summerlings “a story rich in local color, humor, outrageous characters, and with a wicked plot.”
In her own words, Howorth describes the book: “Summerlings is a simple historical novel set in Washington, D.C. in 1959 in a neighborhood similar to the one I grew up in. Our street was a Whitman’s Sampler of families: Austrian Jewish refugees from Anschluss, Latin American diplomats, A Dutch general and Nazi sympathizer, possible CIA and FBI operatives, a goddess-like Ukrainian refugee supporter.
To a gang of crazy kids, and to the adults as well, nothing is as it seems, and everything is colored by a WWII hangover, causing rumors and mistrust. It’s the Cold War, and there is fear about The Bomb, spies, and Communism, especially when a strange insect plague spreads across the city, and a mysterious death occurs in the ‘hood.
The kids try to navigate all this, plotting in the wacky, Lord-of-the-Flies way kids will, hoping to fix things. The book is a good read for this time; a dark but amusing distraction from the awfulness we feel now. Some political issues resonate today, but I think serve to comfort readers by showing that there have been other frightening times, and we do come through.”
As a bit of lagniappe to the novel, Howorth has constructed a playlist of songs that color her novel. “In trying to write a historical novel, it’s so important to be able to re-create a time and place, and nothing gets you there faster than tapping into the popular culture: films and TV, vernacular speech, clothing, food, political and social issues, kids’ games, advertising, cars, and music–all of that,” Howorth writes.
“These things seemed particularly important to me for evoking the 1950s, when America was changing so fast post-World War II. And nothing was changing more thrillingly than the music of that time–pop music became the soundtrack for every day!”
You can listen to the soundtrack on Spotify, or at KnopfDoubleDay.com, which includes Howorth’s own commentary for each track, explaining its significance to the story.