The Summer Place (2022) is Jennifer Weiner’s latest, following on her practice of taking minor characters from previous books and giving them their time in the spotlight.
I have mixed feelings about Weiner’s work as far as how she portrays fatness, which I delineated in my review of her 2021 novel That Summer, which I was very disappointed with. It doesn’t help to have fat characters in a book if the author is going to perpetuate anti-fat bias, even in subtle ways.
In The Summer Place, Weiner centers Sarah and Sam, grown-up twins (from That Summer) in their late thirties now, but includes many subplots involving their mother, Veronica Levy, Sarah’s husband Eli, stepdaughter Ruby, and Ruby’s fiancé Gabe. There is a lot going on in this novel, and Weiner includes some fabulism, telling certain chapters from the imaginary perspective of the house on the Cape that brings them all together.
None of the characters are explicitly fat, although Weiner does make reference to bodies having changed over the years. The cover has an illustration of a modestly-sized woman with larger arms and legs in an inner-tube, so it would be easy for a woman of any size to picture herself as one of the characters.
Weiner has still not learned, though, that she doesn’t have to perpetuate anti-fat bias, even when she’s having a despised character be anti-fat. And having a curvy Latina woman be an object of forbidden desire for a cheating husband doesn’t make him fat-positive.
I did enjoy the queer-positive story of one of the characters figuring out their sexuality after having believed they were straight for decades, and how the family just rolled with it. But all in all, I think Weiner tried to put too much into this novel, and I didn’t appreciate the multiple times characters cheated in their relationships. Plus, there was an issue that was unresolved, and I like to have things tied up in a knot at the end of novels I read.
Final verdict: mixed anti-fat and mildly body positive; if you’re a Weiner fan, you will probably like it, but if not, you may want to skip it.