SUMMER by Lisa Grunwald (Knopf: $15.95). If you can accept the premise that a reasonably normal 18-year-old girl would seriously consider killing her father in order to spare him the grief of living without her mother, who is dying of cancer, then this first novel may speak volumes to you. It houses some marvelous dialogue, introduces a group of attractive characters, and contains a love story that is both fragile and robust. This is a study of a tightly bound family, sufficient unto each other, and what happens when the mother begins to die and the world comes unraveled and still life goes on. The author has a tendency to lead the reader by the hand; her first-person narrator says that the idea of causing her parents' plane to crash "was simply never a crime," and that her behavior in the initial throes of infatuation was "still embarrassing for me to recall."
The thoughts presented and the actions taken have not the slightest need for signposts pointing the way to appropriate response. And yet, the telling of this story is generally so compelling and the youthful zest shines through with such charm that one forgives the rough edges as one forgives the younger self for thinking that the world should make sense. Lisa Grunwald's fictional milieu is peopled with characters who are intriguing and situations that keep one interested right to the final sentence.