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Book Review: Suddenly that Summer

Thursday, May 18, 2023


Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!

I have another historical fiction book to add to your Summer Reading List:  Suddenly that Summer by Lori Handeland.

About Suddenly that Summer:


They called it the Summer of Love . . .

For small-town Wisconsin siblings Billy and Jay Johnson, it’s a summer of change, confusion, and self-discovery.

Billy enlists in the army and is soon on his way to Vietnam. The letters and sketches he sends home tell the story of the crack-shot soldier he has become. ‘Slayer’ is a sniper the Vietcong both fear and loathe, an enemy they will never stop hunting. But the more violence Billy sees, the more he kills, the farther he drifts from who he thought he was––or at least who he thought he wanted to be. He draws strength from the friends he makes on his journey and the camaraderie he finds. Billy begins to wonder if he is there for the mission or the men or if, maybe, his mission has become these men.

Jay expects to enjoy the summer with her three lifelong friends, but the Four Musketeers have grown up and grown apart leaving Jay adrift and alone. Then she meets Paul, the dazzling new boy from California, whose anti-war views make her question if things are as cut and dried as she’s been taught. Shouldn’t she be on the same side of this war as her brother, who believes just as strongly in the right of the conflict as the protestors believe in the wrong of it? Torn, Jay struggles to make sense of her lifelong beliefs versus the turning cultural tide when surprising support comes from the friends she thought she’d lost.

From the voice of New York Times bestselling author Lori Handeland, a heartfelt, coming-of-age story that brings back the feelings of innocence, fireworks and fireflies, warm summer sun on your skin––and the moment you realized everything was about to change.

My Review:

In her letter to me, Lori Handeland describes Suddenly that Summer as a Stand By Me with girls, and I agree!  I typically enjoy coming of age stories, and I like that it's set during the late sixties.  The familial tension also reminds me of My Brother Sam is Dead.  Enough with the comparisons...I know I should stop because Suddenly that Summer is unique in its own right, too.  Lori also stated in her letter that this book is her latest work of book club fiction.  There is plenty of fodder for discussion, and it's timely because our country, friend groups, and families have never been more divided.

The four girlfriends, or the Four Musketeers as they like to call themselves, are all unique with diverse interests and goals.  The main character is Jay (real name Jane), and she is becoming quite the little hippie due to the influence of the new boy in town from San Francisco.  Then there's tomboy Ronnie who wants to represent the United States at the Olympics in the 1500 meter dash.  Mags wants only to become Miss America, and brainy Helen reads Shakespeare for fun during summer break.  Each has her own struggles, but Jay's increasing anti-war rhetoric causes more problems for the group, and she is definitely shunned for it.

Not every chapter is about Jay and her friends.  Alternating chapters are about Jay's brother Billy who voluntarily enlisted in the Army.  His chapters describe his training and the young men from all over the country in his unit.  An artist, Billy draws his fellow soldiers while at home and in Southeast Asia and sends them home to Jay.  What Jay does with them is shocking.  

The young women and their determination to remain friends at all costs is inspiring to me.  It's an important lesson because each of them is complex, and trivial things, whether it's a belief or something else, should not come between friends.  Lori Handeland does a great job depicting the fashion, culture, and small town Wisconsin life during the Summer of Love, 1967.  Each chapter is actually a song title, so I found myself humming the songs while reading.  I think you will enjoy this book if you like coming of age stories, family drama, historical fiction,  and books about friendships.

"I learned something while chumming around with other people."  She took a deep breath.  "A friendship like ours is worth something;  it's worth everything."
~Ronnie from Suddenly that Summer

You can read more about Lori on her wonderful website HERE.  She is quite a prolific writer, and she's also a two-time RITA Award winner.  You can also read an excerpt HERE

Disclosure:  I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of this tour, and for the author's sending me a nice letter and an autographed copy of Suddenly that Summer in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. Thank you so much for your lovely words. I appreciate your time in this.

  2. Sounds like a good book for Summer reading. Thanks for posting about it.
    m in hi.

  3. Oh I love that quote!!! That gets you right in the heart strings. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  4. I'd like to read this book or something by this author! Thanks for the really good review. I'm reading a lot, mostly mysteries!


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Hello, Lovelies!

I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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