THE SISTERS OF SUMMIT AVENUE – Lynn Cullen
Indiana and Minnesota – 1908, 1934
1908 - June and Ruth are two sisters who have had a difficult childhood. They have a loving father who works hard, but a distant, seemingly unconcerned mother, Dorothy, who drifts through their lives. June is the pretty one, at least as far as Ruth is concerned. To Ruth, June has their mother's love, the long blonde hair, curves, and attention from everyone. Ruth resents her, but loves her all the same, and June tries her best to let Ruth know that she is loved. It's difficult to get past Ruth's negative outlook on life.
1934 - Ruth has spent the last eight years struggling to keep her family and their farm running. Her husband, John, contracted encephalitis lethargica , a disease sweeping the country that literally keeps a person in a semi-coma, barely able to communicate. Ruth has hired a young man to help out, offering him only room and board, but in these days of the Great Depression, Nick is grateful for the job. Dorothy, Ruth's mother, has moved in to help with John and Ruth's four daughters. Dorothy worries about Ruth's friendship with Nick.
June is married to Richard, who is a physician, and they live in Minnesota. Despite living a comfortable lifestyle, June works for Betty Crocker as one of the female consultants. Her husband teases her and calls her Betty, but June seriously wants to be productive since she has been unable to get pregnant. She is well aware that Ruth is struggling, and she sends money to help the family. June is also well aware how jealous Ruth is of her.
Dorothy spends her free time talking to John, who never acknowledges her as he sleeps on. She reveals her dark secrets that she has only ever told her late husband, and certainly cannot let her daughters know.
THE SISTERS OF SUMMIT AVENUE is a depression era story of a family whose members love one another, but jealousy, envy, sad secrets, and withheld emotions cause the three women to distance themselves from each other. Dorothy's secrets, June's need for love, and Ruth's lifelong resentment come to a head at a family reunion.
This is quite an emotional tale, and while Dorothy's treatment of Ruth as a child explains a lot, it's difficult to warm to Ruth. Once all of the truth is revealed, will the three finally understand each other? THE SISTERS OF SUMMIT AVENUE is lovingly written, and the characters are memorable.