Friday, November 9, 2012

India's Summer

By Thérèse
Stamford CT, The Fiction Studio, 2012
258 pages            Fiction

India Butler is almost 40 and she feels stagnant in her job and her life. She is an unmarried high school teacher in London, and she is longing for something different. At the opening of the book she has organized a fire walk as a way to challenge her students but also to challenge herself. She wants a new life.

Who she really wants to be is her twin sister Annabelle, a Hollywood actor, married to a rock star, the mother of two daughters, rich and famous, and on and on and on. So, she goes to visit her sister during a break from school to try on a Los Angeles lifestyle, complete with paparazzi, expensive meals, support groups, name dropping, and an amazing love affair with a movie star. 

India’s Summer is a coming of age story or perhaps a “second coming” of age story. I think everyone wants to try on a new life but not everyone has the opportunity. It is that second chance that makes the book fun.  India has the opportunity to try on a new lifestyle and discover again (or perhaps for the first time) her worth and value. 

One of the devices Thérèse uses to create the atmosphere of superficial Los Angeles is to designer-name every item of clothing, furniture, and accessory. For example “She sat down on the Gubi stainless steel chair.” I, of course, have no idea what a Gubi stainless steel chair is, living, as I do, in a house full of hand-me-down furniture and a living room couch I am starting to hate. The closest thing I have to designer clothes is a couple of Eileen Fisher sweaters I bought recently at the Eileen Fisher recycle store and outlet. Oh, oh, oh---I do have a Michael Kors t shirt from TJ Maxx. Can TJ Maxx be considered a designer boutique?

She carries this device on, as well, with her classy pen name and the names of the people that endorse the book, including Arianna Huffington, Goldie Hawn, and Orlando Bloom, among others. Overkill, perhaps, but all in good fun.

Where I could identify with India's Summer is in the idea of trying on a new life. That is what travel is all about, and I think that is what Thérèse is conveying. Every once in a while, it is good to reassess who you are and where you are in your life. Every life, no matter how glamorous or meaningful becomes tedious. A shot of change is just what may be needed. Such change may not result in the love of a famous movie star, ala India Butler, but change will give the thoughtful person a new perspective and a new focus. I was reminded of a memoir I reviewed about a year ago—Working It Out—about a woman who appeared on The Biggest Loser television show after tragedy forced her to make massive changes in her life. Compared to Abby Rike’s life changing experiences, India’s appears frivolous and trite. Yet, India’s Summer does remind us that looking at our life through fresh eyes is always valuable.

I received this book from the publicist. Although I probably wouldn’t have picked it up on my own, it was a fun diversion from the dissertations and journal articles I have been editing all day every day. I will return to meatier subjects with Drift by Rachel Maddow, the book I am currently reading.

Thérèse is a first time author. Here is her blog:
She shares a lot of humorous entries about moving from England to living in Los Angeles. It is worth looking at.

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