The Gypsy Moth Summer: Book summary and reviews of The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

The Gypsy Moth Summer

by Julia Fierro

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro X
The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2017
    400 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

"Fierro doesn't just observe, she knows. Like all great novelists, she gives us the world." - Amy Bloom, bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us

On an island, time can freeze. But in the summer of 1992, young and old felt the change coming, waiting to hatch like the gypsy moth eggs tucked in the crook and bend of every tree on Avalon Island.

It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island - dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island's leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season. 

It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall - only daughter of Avalon's most prominent family - returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in "The Castle," the island's grandest estate. Leslie's husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.

Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island's bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie's and Jules' son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island - and its patriarch, the Colonel - be to blame? 

As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie's and Brooks' passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.

Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders; a plotting aged matriarch and her husband, a demented military patriarch; and a troubled young boy, each seeking his or her own refuge, escape and revenge, The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

One of the most anticipated books of 2017
The Huffington Post: 2017 Book Preview: 33 Titles To Add To Your Shelf
The Week: 28 books to read in 2017
The Millions: The Great 2017 Book Preview
Nylon Magazine: 50 Books We Can't Wait To Read In 2017
Read It Forward: 17 Books We're Excited to Read in 2017

"Can the budding romance between Brooks and Maddie survive against the backdrop of racism, class rivalries, changing social mores, and Leslie's desperation for revenge? That question is poignantly answered in a powerful story showcasing a dizzying spectrum of relationships from the deeply destructive to the supportive and loving." - Publishers Weekly

"Jam-packed with stereotypes, bad sex scenes, and clichés of every kind, this book has something to appall almost anyone." - Kirkus

"In her hugely engaging novel, The Gypsy Moth Summer, Julia Fierro brings a light touch to bear on the most important subjects: social class, race, family, generational conflict, anger and forgiveness. It is a sterling example of how fiction can entertain us and at the same time inspire us to think about the things we urgently need to consider, now more than ever." - Francine Prose, National Book Award finalist and bestselling author

"The Gypsy Moth Summer shakes and stirs family saga and summer romance upside down. The irresistible storytelling brings to life each character and Fierro doesn't just observe, she knows. Like all great novelists, she gives us the world." - Amy Bloom, bestselling author of Away and Lucky Us

"Julia Fierro's marvelous The Gypsy Moth Summer is a novel to slowly savor, settling in with her characters as you would old friends, cherishing every sentence, every turn of plot. Rarely does one encounter a novel this entertaining, which also speaks to the complicated truths about race and class at the heart of our country's tangled history." - Joanna Rakoff, author of The Salinger Year

"Fierro's thoroughly entertaining storytelling doesn't prevent her from taking on weighty subjects like race and class in America or delivering a rebuke of the lives of privilege that she chronicles with such anthropological accuracy. We are deeply invested in these characters around whom an air of tragic destiny hangs, and the pages fly by as the book hurtles toward its devastating conclusion." - Matthew Thomas, bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

"Masterpiece is often a word that is casually tossed around, but it fits Fierro's work, which is so richly alive, so poetic, it is truly Shakespearean tragedy. I had a sense of wonder that someone could craft a novel as perfect as this one, but then I remembered this is a Julia Fierro novel - and she did." - Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Pictures of You, Is This Tomorrow, and Cruel Beautiful World

"Julia Fierro's second book is a luminous, urgent novel about the forces that shape us all: where we grow up; whether we are loved by our parents or understood by our peers; how class, power, and money may cast our fates." - Sophie McManus, author of The Unfortunates

"The Gypsy Moth Summer is a deeply satisfying tale of family, first love, and home. The world of Avalon Island is lush, inviting, and deeply complicated, full of the same contradictions that we grapple with day to day. It's a meditation on what makes a community and a reminder that the past is never past and home is a place that is both beautiful and heartbreaking." - Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman

"Fierro's masterful second novel draws us close, makes us its confidante, and then delivers hard and violent truths about the Island's legacy of denial." - Scott Blackwood, author of PEN USA 2016 award winning novel, See How Small

The information about The Gypsy Moth Summer shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Amy S. (Tucson, AZ)

I Couldn't Put This One Down!
Fierro does a remarkable job creating tension in this book from the get go. It kept building and building. I wanted it to end just so I could breathe! At the same time I didn't because it was so apparent something horrific would occur. In spite of my "knowing", I was shocked by the ending. Fierro's beautiful prose, vivid descriptions, and glimpses into the different "realities" of various characters from their own viewpoints allow her reader to feel the unsettledness of the story deeply.

Barbara G. (Lisle, IL)

A Summer to Remember
Unlike the monarch butterflies facing extinction in Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior, the fate of the butterflies' cousins in Julie Fierro's The Gypsy Moth Summer are in the midst of a pro-creative orgy that engulfs New England's Avalon Island and its residents. In their own biological echo the teenagers of the island, more or less ignored by their parents, are caught in their own frenzy exploring their sexuality, attempting to find the love they don't receive at home. The story's backdrop pits the island's main employer, war plane manufacturer Grudder, against the sharp divide between the well-paid, well-educated and white management and the lower-paid ethnic factory workers. What happens at the end of the summer to the main characters the reader will grow to care for, will seem logical and surprising at the same time.

Jan

Confused by ending
I gave this novel 4 stars because it is beautifully written and held my interest to the end. It describes one summer on an island off the coast of Long Island. Leslie, who grew up on the island, returns with her African-American husband and 2 bi-racial children. There are a lot of subplots: racial tension, pollution from the aviation factory on the island, political protest, romance, and violence. The story is told from multiple points of view, and seeing the same incident from 2 different points of view added an interesting dimension. There was a lot of drugs and sex in the sections focusing on the teenagers.
On the plus side, I loved the author’s writing and descriptions of nature on the island, and I thought the characters were very interesting and well developed for the most part. The hints of disaster to come kept me interested and reading until the end. However, I was a little confused about the characters’ motivations and why they did some of the things they did, especially at the end. Maybe I missed something?

Lucy S. (ANN ARBOR, MI)

Pretty good
This was a hard book to put down. I was drawn in by the multiple perspectives, and the fact that the book opened by giving you the knowledge that something bad was going to happen. The author holds out until the very end to relieve this suspense. I thought this book was well written, but at times it felt like the author was trying too hard in her descriptions, so that they didn't read true. The dialogue seemed forced occasionally as well. Some of the story lines were interesting but I feel the author tried to address too many big issues without successfully making a point about any one of them. Yet, there was something compelling about this book and I have found that certain characters and scenes have stuck with me after its end.

Janice C. (Hayward, CA)

The Gypsy Moth Summer
Let's just say I enjoyed it. Would recommend to certain friends.

Julia A. (New York, NY)

Evil Lurks on this Island
Anyone of us who have lived through a "Gypsy Moth Summer" knows that nothing good comes of it—disgusting caterpillars and denuded trees seem a harbinger of even worse things. Such is the case here. The foreshadowing in this book is there almost from the first page. The reader knows something terrible is going to happen, but even an alert reader probably won't guess just how terrible the events will be. My expectation was for one tragedy to occur that summer; the reality all but took my breath away.

The story is written from multiple points of view: the "kids" Maddie and Dom; the "adults" (and I use the word loosely) Leslie, Jules, Veronica, and for one chapter the demented Colonel. This technique enhances the narrative, although it at first seems a bit disjointed. Set against the backdrop of the caterpillars noisily chomping on every leaf of every tree on the island and the black sludge they excrete, making being outdoors unpleasant, the story has us constantly asking just how bad situations can get. Sometimes the atmosphere seems stifling; the self-contained world of Avalon Island is a place from which I would run screaming, so I certainly sympathized with Maddie and with Jules, the two who most want to leave. I don't want to put spoilers into the review, so I'll leave it at this: Read "Gypsy Moth Summer" for the plot, the richly drawn characters, the evocation of atmosphere, and the emotional impact.

...20 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Julia Fierro

Julia Fierro is the author of the novels The Gypsy Moth Summer and Cutting Teeth. Her work has been published in The Millions, Poets & Writers, Buzzfeed, Glamour, and other publications, and she has been profiled in The Observer and The Economist. A graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Julia founded The Sackett Street Writers' Workshop in 2002, a creative home to more than 3,500 writers in NYC, Los Angeles and Online. SSWW was named "Best Writing Classes" by The Village Voice, Time Out NY, and "Best MFA-Alternative" by Poets & Writers. Julia lives in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

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