The Last Summer (of You and Me)
The Last Summer (of You and Me), published in 2007, is Ann Brashares' first novel for adults. She is most well known for her young books, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants, and Forever in Blue.
"Riley and Alice, two sisters now in their twenties, and as fiercely different as they are loyal, have spent every summer at their parents' modest beach house. And every summer growing up, there was also Paul, a close friend to both girls. Now, after three summers away from the island, he's come back. But his return marks a season of change, of unspoken attractions, tragedy, and deep secrets that will launch three friends into an unfamiliar adult world, from which their summer haven can no longer protect them." -from book description, 2007 paperback edition
The narration is divided between the viewpoints of the three main characters, Riley (age 24 at the beginning of the book), her sister Alice (age 21 at the beginning of the book), and their lifelong friend, Paul (age 24 at the beginning of the book), and chronicles an eventful year that opens Paul's return to their summer home on Fire Island after missing the previous two summers.
WARNING: Quotations may contain spoilers.
Chapter 1: Waiting
- She couldn't picture his face when he was gone. Every summer he came back wearing his same face that she could not remember.
- Cars were conveyors of privacy. Without them, you lived a lot more of your life out in the open. Where you went, who you went with. Who you waited for at the ferry dock. Who you brushed your hair for. You were exposed here, but you were also safe.
- Would her hair have gotten as dark as that? Could her shape have changed into that? No and no, obviously. At this distance, closing in at this speed, you knew a person by her posture, by certain unnameable qualities, and those weren't and couldn't be hers.
- What was the matter with her? It was just him! It was the same old Paul. But it also wasn't. He was the strangest of strangers in that he was also her oldest friend.
Chapter 2: You'll Turn Out Ordinary if You're Not Careful
- It was funny the things the three of them talked about. Often it was the concrete things they hung upon. Concrete or metaphysical, and very little in between. That was another leftover, a child's prerogative, in a way. They talked about fish and they talked about God. But it was all the stuff in the middle that came to preoccupy you as you grew older.
Chapter 3: Bottles and Stones
- It brought to mind the problem of babysitting for the children of family friends. They underpaid you because they felt they bestowed a favor by recognizing you as something other than a child yourself. Friends and favors made a mess of commerce, in Alice's opinion.
Chapter 4: The Talent for Being a Child
- Some people had gifts that made them great at being kids. Riley had those gifts. She was fearless, and she was fair. She was effortlessly expert at skateboarding, sailing, running fast, coaxing a fish off of any line. She was the pitcher on the winning corkball team for seven years in a row. She was the first kid up on a surfboard. She was even good at indoor things, like card tricks and video games. She didn't believe in hierarchies - not even mothers. She was the one kid every other kid wanted to befriend, and she never used her power for ill.
- Riley made it seem like they were all gods of their world, but Alice know that Riley was really the god. She just gave them turns sometimes.
- Alice felt disloyal to Riley when she began to realize, much later, that her natural talents, her ability to communicate and observe, her caution, her empathy, her love of knitting, suited her better to the grown-up world.
Chapter 5: Not Getting Ahead
- She didn't deserve it, which was to say she deserved better.
Chapter 6: God Made Alice for Alice
- "I'm serious. They'll give you money to fight with people. You'll spend your days distrusting people and thinking of what will go wrong. You're an optimist. You'll get crushed by that."
"I won't," she said defensively. "I'm not so fragile."
He managed to get her hand again. He pulled her to a stop. "Everyone is fragile. Everything beautiful is fragile."
She chewed on her cheek. She stared at her feet. She tried to blink the water back into her eyes before she looked at him again. "You want to fish for crabs?"
"let me love you, but don't love me back. Do love me and let me hate you for a while. let me feel like I have some control, because I know I never do."
Chapter 7: Red, Red Wine
- Her surprise was physical. She was astonished, and at the same time she knew. There were many things in life like that. You couldn't imagine it, and then it happened and you couldn't really imagine it hadn't.
Chapter 8: The Kind of Person to Be
- "So, are you writing or erasing?" she asked.
"Writing. I erase by night."
She looked at him carefully. He indicated no knowledge of what had gone on at the beach the night before. "I think you erase by day, too," she said.
Chapter 9: La Bella
- She'd been so angry with him when she'd fallen asleep the night before, and now his lovely body was all around her, and the anger was nowhere to be found. With Paul, she could never remember where she'd mislaid her anger, even the times she promised herself she would go back and look for it later.
Chapter 10: Take Your Life
- She wanted to see him, but she was afraid to. She wanted to keep her version of events for as long as possible. She didn't want to give him a chance to remember it all differently, to tuck it away in a package that was easier to seal off and easier to forget.
- The chief frustration of romantic love was that you couldn't make it go by yourself.
Chapter 11: Look at What You Could Have
- Maybe they would be the first couple to achieve career success while having sex. They couldn't really teach classes or go to meetings, but maybe they could do conference calls. That lawyer route would be out of the question, which was all the better.
Chapter 12: A Fitting Curse
- The one thing Alice knew was that she deserved neither pleasure nor comfort. She would mess up her heart, too.
Chapter 13: Leaving Badly
- A lifetime of planning could be canceled in less than five minutes, it turned out.
Chapter 14: Closing Up
- What was it with Alice and her jobs requiring costumes? he wondered. It seemed to him a sign of her perpetual underemployment. And yet it made him ache for the eagerness and completeness with which she approached her life. She had her dignity, but it a broad way. It didn't confine her as it did other people. He looked at Monique in her dignified and attractive clothes. Angry as he was at Alice, Paul suddenly felt he could only ever want a woman in a dark green zippered jumpsuit.
Chapter 15: Blame Here and There
- Her mother was always looking for confirmation that Riley was gay and also for proof that she wasn't.
Chapter 16: Somebody's Wedding
- Riley had been her best self with Paul. She had spent her happiest times with him. If she could stay the same in Paul's mind, then her real self was preserved, it existed in one place at least. When she was with him, even now, she could feel like that person she'd been before.
- "Kids who grow up on a kibbutz together act like siblings. They almost never fall in love."
It wasn't the only reason, Riley knew, but maybe it helped explain why Paul always kept Alice at a distance, judged her harshly, ignored her when she most wanted his attention. Because he knew someday he'd want to love her.
Chapter 17: Cryogenics
- If Riley wanted to run, Alice couldn't stop her. All she could do was watch. So she did. She watched and remembered, and it made for a strangely beautiful vision.
Chapter 18: The Tear in the Net
- The first glimpse of her fragility had always haunted him. Among the most punishing images he had logged in his memory was of ten-year-old Riley, blinking at him in surprise, blood running down her eye and cheek. He had tried to hurt her, yes, but he had never believed he could. She was not a regular human being to him. She could not be hurt. He felt like shouting that at her, like it was her fault. He felt mad at her for it. He didn't feel sorry for her.
Chapter 19: A Stove and a Fire
- Her singleness of mind, her peculiar innocence was unchanged, even in spite of everything. We can't take you with us, and we can't leave you. He realized this was true before they knew there was anything wrong with her heart.
Chapter 20: I Loved You First
- Riley was quiet for a minute. She gathered her blanket all around her. "Paul always loved you, Alice. He knows I know that. I know he loves me, too. But it's different."
Alice opened her mouth, but nothing came out at first. "He loved me once. But I think that part is over," she said slowly.
"No, it's not. It hasn't even begun." Riley took Alice's bare foot in her hand and squeezed it. "I told him, though, that he better be good to you. When you came along, I said I'd share you, but I told him to remember that you're my sister. I loved you first."
Chapter 21: Things Taken and Returned
- She held her old rosary in her hands... She remembered the nights she'd said her Hail Marys and Our Fathers again and again and again, feeling transported, wondering if she was transported. So he'd taken it. She'd suspected him at the time, but she'd given him the benefit of the doubt, as she often did. What a shame, in a way. What a stupid thing to do. It was him she used to pray for.
Chapter 22: No Person Is Ashes
- By night Alice knitted a scarf for nobody. She'd started it for Riley, and it seemed wrong, somehow, not to finish it. And then, in an odd brainstorm around the second week of August, she decided she'd make it for Emily. Even if she never got up the courage to give it to Emily, a knitter always needed to know for whom she knitted.
Chapter 23: From That World into This
- "We trusted ourselves when we were younger," Alice asked thoughtfully, somewhere between the Sunken Forest and Sailor's Haven. "Didn't we?"
"Riley did," Paul said. "And we, to a lesser extent, did, too."
"We trusted Riley."
"We didn't truest ourselves to be adults, though. We thought we knew better then."
Paul shook his head, thinking. "The adults we had around didn't offer much promise. They offered us so many things not to do, it was hard to see what possibilities were left over."
Chapter 24: Not Getting a Motorcycle
- At last he sat up. " I had the strangest feeling before. Not strange, really. Probably natural. Just strange to me."
"What is that?" said Alice, sitting up next to him.
"I held those little girls up, and in the time it took the butterflies to come and go, I changed from thinking of them as people I might once have been to people I could one day have. Do you think your past can change into your future that quickly?"