One of the wonderful things about summers in New England is that almost all of the small towns and libraries have their annual book sales. Big white tents are set up, and box after box of donated books are organized and stacked on tables - Fiction, Biography, History, Travel, Cooking, and more. If Barnes & Noble had a tag sale I imagine this is what it would look like.
The best part is that the books are so cheap! Three bucks and under is the norm, but as the days go by it gets even better. By day three, usually the last day, the brown paper bags appear and it's $5 bucks a bag - all you can stuff in. I love to snatch up copies of my favorites and then pass them along to people I think might enjoy them. The last time I went to one of these sales with my stepdaughter, Avery, we needed a rolling dolly to haul out our load of books ... or should I say, treasures.
It's also a great way to try new writers because suddenly you can buy anything you want and not live to regret it. For those of us who collect books, it's a dream come true. You never know when you might find that rare first edition, or a signed copy, or an out of print book you've been hoping for. Most times thought, it's just a simple treat in the bottom of the bag like the old paperback copy I found of Summer, by Edith Wharton.
Though I'm familiar with Wharton's, The Age of Innocence, and my favorite, Ethan Frome, I'd never read Summer. I'd tried to read it freshman year in college, but I couldn't get into it. This time I let the purple flowers and butterfly on the cover make me believe I was in for a perfect "summer" read, and delved in knowing really nothing about the nature of the book. I was in for a surprise. Wharton's main character Charity, is young and unformed, a time in her life when first love seems to be everything, and the responsibilities of adulthood are unrealized. Set against the social norms and restrictions of her day, the urges and forces inside of Charity propel her to maturity and by the end of then ovel, she has "grown up."
We've all been where this character has been. One of the most wonderful things about Edith Wharton's writing is her ability to take on the complicated, universal realities of life and love and present them with such honesty. More than anything, the story made me appreciate the perspective that this adult phase of my own life brings. I'm sure now that back in college I wasn't mature enough to appreciate what Summer had to offer.
I guess the moral of the story is that not every summer read needs to be a "beach read." Sometimes grab and go is best. You never know what prize you're going to find in the bottom of a brown paper bag.