Title: Summer Sisters
Author: Judy Blume
Warning: Spoilers (and I spill the ending).
Summer Sisters is an adult novel by Judy Blume. The book is about Victoria “Vix” Leonard and Caitlin Somers, two girls who spend summers on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. The book goes from their first summer on the Vineyard, when the girls are twelve to when they’re thirty-one. The book is broken down into five different sections with a prologue and an epilogue. Each section covers a few summers when they’re together and the rest of the year as well.
The book opens with the prologue in the year 1990, when Vix receives a phone call from Caitlin, who she hasn’t spoken with in a few months. Caitlin says she’s getting married at her father’s house on the Vineyard (Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts) and she wants Vix to be in the wedding. When Vix asks who the groom is, she learns it’s Joseph “Bru” Brudegher. Despite Bru being her ex-boyfriend, Vix agrees to be Caitlin’s maid of honour. From here, the book flashes back to the first section, the summer of 1977.
In 1977, Vix’s world is spun around when the new popular girl, Caitlin, invites Vix to join her on vacation that summer. Caitlin explains that her father has a place on Martha’s Vineyard, and his visitation is from July first until Labour Day. Vix really wants to go, because she’s never seen the ocean. At home she asks her mom, Tawny, and she says no because Caitlin comes from an unstable family; Tawny doesn’t trust Caitlin’s mother Phoebe, and Vix needs to help her family during the summer. Her family includes Tawny, who is working for a Countess, her dad Ed, and her three younger siblings: Lanie, Lewis, and Nathan, who is wheelchair bound. In the end she’s allowed to go, and she meets Caitlin’s family: Her father Lamb, her older brother Sharkey, Lamb’s girlfriend (and later wife) Abby, Abby’s son Daniel, and Daniel’s friend Gus. Occasionally, Lamb’s ex Trisha will visit them.
That first summer Vix and Caitlin develop crushes on two older boys, Bru and his cousin, Von. They decide that Vix will take Bru and Caitlin will take Von so they don’t fight over the boys. They spend the summer flirting with the boys and pretending the boys are dating them.
Part 2 of the book takes us through 1982-1983. Caitlin and Vix have hooked up with the older guys, Caitlin with Von and Vix with Bru, just as they’d planned. The main event on the Vineyard this time is Vix’s seventeenth birthday, and how quickly the party goes from good to bad. On the night of Vix’s seventeenth birthday, she, Caitlin, Bru, and Von have a party on the beach. Caitlin has brought marijuana along with her and they all smoke it. Vix later unintentionally makes out with Von, because she thought he was Bru. The next morning Vix is mad at Caitlin because Vix thinks she set it up. Caitlin tells her they just smoked too much and that it doesn’t mean anything. Vix leaves to stay with Trish, working at the Homeport, a popular restaurant on the Vineyard. During this summer, Lamb receives a call from Tawny, who says Nathan died. Caitlin and Vix also apply to colleges at this point, Caitlin to Wellesley and Vix to Harvard, and the girls get accepted into those colleges. However, Caitlin decides to take a year off to travel and study abroad before heading to Wellesley. She and Vix keep in loose contact through postcards with cryptic messages (Caitlin sends them) and phone calls. Caitlin loses her virginity that summer to an Italian ski instructor, which doesn’t shock Vix at all.
Part 3 of the book is from 1983-1987. Vix is a freshman at Harvard, where she meets her roommate, a girl named Maia. Vix and Maia both have negative first impressions of each other, but they end up being roommates for a while. Lanie has a baby girl named Amber when she’s seventeen. Caitlin has an affair with a woman in Paris. She visits Vix on the Vineyard and tells Vix she had an abortion because the birth control wasn’t effective.
Part 4 of the book takes place from 1987-1990. Vix has finally begun life out of college. She has a job working at ABC. On her way home from Buenos Aires, Caitlin visits Vix and meets Maia. Maia tells Vix that Caitlin is the bitchy popular girl in junior-high who seems cool but she’s headed nowhere good. Caitlin goes to Seattle and sends Vix a postcad from there, and she wants Vix to come out and see her. Vix tutors a sixteen-year-old dropout who’s trying to get her GED and her father has an angina attack. One day while grocery shopping, Vix runs into Phoebe, and Phoebe reveals that Caitlin’s back on the Vineyard, which is a shock to Vix. Caitlin calls Vix in late June 1990, and at this point the story is in the preface; when Caitlin’s calling to announce her engagement.
Part 5 of the story is now in the present, and it’s basically about getting ready for the wedding. However, Vix and Caitlin have a serious talk. Even though it looks as though Caitlin’s had the perfect life, she tells Vix she was jealous of her. Vix had everything wanted—she was the daughter Abby always wanted, she got a scholarship. Vix sleeps with Bru the night before the wedding. A year later, Caitlin has a daughter, Somers Mayhem Brudegher, nicknamed Maizie. Vix marries Gus, and Caitlin gets a divorce. One week after Maizie’s first birthday, Caitlin asks Lamb and Abby to babysit her daughter while she goes shopping. She calls later to ask if her father and stepmom can keep Maizie overnight and they agree, but Caitlin doesn’t say she’s on her way to Paris. Caitlin never returns for Maizie.
Caitlin goes to Milan, where an Italian man named Antonio wants to marry her. She goes out on her sailboat to think it through, and Caitlin says she’ll call Vix with her decision when she reaches New York. Caitlin never calls Vix.
The book ends with the epilogue in 1996. Vix and Gus have a son named Nate. Daniel remains single. Everyone is back on the Vineyard for Caitlin’s dedication service. Blume is not clear on what happens to Caitlin*, other than the fact that there was accident at sea and her body was never found. At the service, Vix had planned to read the essay for her college application—Caitlin Somers, The Most Influential Person In My Life—but she finds that it’s too hard so Gus reads it for her. At the very end of the book, Vix finds closure and knows that all the Vineyards summers, and Caitlin, will stay with her forever.
*I’ve thought a lot about what I believe happened to Caitlin. Here are my thoughts: Caitlin committed suicide. The day Caitlin dropped Maizie off at her father’s house she knew that she’d never be back. When she went on another vacation after ditching her daughter, she wanted to see the world one last time before she killed herself. When she invited Vix to Milan, she wasn’t just being nice; she needed to say goodbye to Vix. Since the boat didn’t show any signs of trouble, she just jumped out of it. As for why she did this….Caitlin’s life was spinning out of control, and dying seemed like the only out of it. She didn’t know how to ask for help.*
I liked this book, especially the character of Vix. Caitlin is the girl everyone wants to be best friends with, but she’s also the girl who is on the fast track to nowhere. She’s the girl who thinks high-school will last forever, and the girl who thinks everyone loves her. She wasn’t that great of a friend to Vix—she kept secrets and lied about a lot of stuff—but she wasn’t as manipulative as Alison DiLaurentis.
I highly recommend reading this.