We continue our summer profile series today with Meg Donohue, author of ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS. If you haven’t yet entered to win Meg’s novel, and the other five books we’re featuring this summer, you can do so here. And if you miss this chance? You’ll have two more. We’re giving a set of the books to one lucky winner every week during the month of June. You can read the other profiles we’ve done in this series here, here, and here.
The summer of 1996 was a pivotal one for me. I’d just graduated from high school, and planned to attend Dartmouth College in the fall. I’d been saving all year to rent a summer house in the beach town of Avalon, New Jersey with my best friends. To this day, I don’t know how we convinced our parents to sign off on this idea. I suppose they realized that in a few short months we’d be on our own anyway, heading off to colleges near and far. And it wouldn’t just be sunbathing and parties—we’d each secured a job on the seven-mile-long barrier island. We understood that if we were living on our own, we’d have to support ourselves. It all felt very mature and exciting—a hint of the adventurous, adult lives that we were sure awaited us on the other side of college.
The house that we rented turned out to be more of a shack. It was small and dingy, with no air conditioning, no dishwasher, and—most devastating to a group of eighteen-year-old girls—not a single closet. There were three cell-like bedrooms in a row, each just big enough to hold a bunk bed. We ended up hooking hangers together and hanging them on the walls because there was no space for a bureau. It felt sort of like camping, except in a beach town. You could smell the funk of low tide in every room. If you stood on the roof at sunset, which we often did, you could watch the bay turn pink. We rode our bikes everywhere and fell in love with brand new boys we hadn’t grown up with and sold lots of t-shirts to sunburned tourists and somehow thrived despite very little sleep.
The protagonists of All the Summer Girls also spend a pivotal summer in Avalon, New Jersey. The women are not based on my friends, or me, and the plot is not autobiographical—I have only happy memories from my time in Avalon, while the protagonists of the novel are haunted by a tragedy that occurred that summer. But the love that the protagonists feel for the island is as real as the love that I feel for that special place, and the house where they lived during that fateful summer is based on the one that I lived in with my best friends from childhood. Just as in the novel, that house was torn down to make way for one of the bigger, fancier homes that have changed the look of the island over recent decades. It lives on only in the golden-hued memories that my friends and I cherish—and now, too, in All the Summer Girls.
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All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue:
In Philadelphia, good girl Kate is dumped by her fiancé the day she learns she is pregnant with his child. In New York City, beautiful stay-at-home mom Vanessa finds herself obsessively searching the Internet for news of an old flame. And in San Francisco, Dani, the wild child and aspiring writer who can’t seem to put down a book—or a cocktail—long enough to open her laptop, has just been fired… again.
In an effort to regroup, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani retreat to the New Jersey beach town where they once spent their summers. Emboldened by the seductive cadences of the shore, the women begin to realize just how much their lives, and friendships, have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful night on the beach eight years earlier—and the secrets that only now threaten to surface.