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Summary

A searing debut novel centering around a gay-to-straight conversion camp in Mississippi and a man's reckoning with the trauma he faced there as a teen.

Grad student Will Dillard has largely buried memories of the summer he spent at a camp intended to "cure" homosexuality. But when he finds out a horror movie based on the camp is hitting theaters, he's forced to face his past - and his role in another camper's death.

As he recounts the events surrounding his "failed rehabilitation", Will strikes out on an impromptu road trip back home to Mississippi, eventually returning to the abandoned campgrounds to solve the mysteries of that pivotal summer. With a masterful confluence of sensibility and place, How to Survive a Summer introduces an exciting new literary voice from the American South.

©2017 Nick White (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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  • Jessica Temple
  • 11-06-17

Captures the Subtleties of People and Place

Novel captures the specifics of its characters and locations. Narrator's accent is perfect for it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • ZippyBippy
  • 06-05-18

A story full of heart and healing

A sometimes hard-to-listen-to but deeply engrossing story of healing, acceptance and second chances. Will is the survivor of a gay conversion camp that he attended while a young boy in Texas. Because he learns that an exploitation movie is going to be made about his time at the camp, Will goes back to face his demons, in the hopes of putting his past behind him and maybe finding a future for himself. It's a real and honest journey.

A note about the narrator, Mr. Crouch. While listening to him, you forget that you are listening to ONE man read these VERY unique and different characters. His characters are so distinct, so easily identifiable and relatable...we feel as though we are in the same room, uneasily eavesdropping on conversations and inner monologues. Mr. Crouch puts us in rooms in which we have no business being. He's amazing, engrossing and talented! I'd love for him to narrate my own life story--if only it were interesting enough. Y'all should check out some of his other work, too.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jeff
  • 20-06-17

I literally could not get through it!

What did you like best about How to Survive a Summer? What did you like least?

The narrator.

Has How to Survive a Summer turned you off from other books in this genre?

The stream of consciousness was absolutely impossible to follow.

What about Michael Crouch’s performance did you like?

Narration was good.

Do you think How to Survive a Summer needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I hope not. Not until the author figures out what story they are trying to tell.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • CozyWriter
  • 09-06-18

An excellent performance of an unfixable book

The Washington Post described this novel as "a Hot Mess" and that might well be understatement. This story of internal redemption if not salvation, surrounding a quasi-horror story about a camp to "cure" gay kids, hidden deep in some toxic and mystical woods in Mississippi, ended up being three discrete stories, none of which were satisfactory.

The reader sits in anticipation of dark reveals to help explain the trauma these 20-something year-old adults faced at the camp as teens. As each layer of revelation is peeled away, the reader gets a shock of either, "What the heck did THAT mean?" or "THAT was it? I waited SIX HOURS and that was it?"

The book is overly long, completely muddled, and has more padding than a sumo wrestler costume. The transitions between present day and flashback are as sharp as a simple paragraph break which tends to pull the listener out of the story to figure out where we are in space and time. Causing a reader to mentally pull out of the story, to escape from the fantasy the author has constructed: that's bad.

The book could have easily ended around 6 hours, or again around 11. White has taken secondary story lines and told them in sequential order rather than sprinkling all in together to make a more enticing read.

The actions of the book: one character's obsession with dying AIDS patients as well as the severe abuses that the children in the novel suffer are placed too far away from current understanding. Even in flashback to an earlier less enlightened time, the scenes are nearly pornographic in their severe violence and hatred. It was painful to listen to and I admit hitting the fast forward button through more than one of the "bash the fag" scenes.

The worst sin off all in this book of writing NOs is that it in the last minutes, it's revealed that this is all a book about writing a book and everything we have experienced, including present-day, has happened in the flashback of a memoirist's eye.

This breaks rule #2 of creative writing 101, of never-using without good cause (surrounded by Losing your virginity (1) and It was all a dream! (3).) Unfortunately this book was no dream or it would have been better.

Next time, we hope White works with a take-no-prisoners editor who will cut out all the useless fluff. This book should have been at least 1/3 to 1/2 shorter. We hope he will write likeable characters (I found myself hating them all!) who have back story motivation for their actions (why in GOD'S name did he throw away his phone!?)

I might listen to his short story collection to see what that's like but it will be a while. My brain needs mental food after slogging through this sweaty morass of a book.

PEEFORMANCE: Five-star good! He handles every voice with aplomb. I even had to double check to make sure Crouch was the only reader in the book. He has the needed regional Southern accent down perfectly (Being from the south I can tell where someone is from - West Texas to West Virginia - by nuances of their voice.) It's correct and not TOO over done. If he narrated the New York phone book I'd buy it!