Review: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Contemporary novel about loss and grief with a splash of sci-fi that just didn’t quite work for me.

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The Square Root of Summer summary

This is what it means to love someone. This is what it means to grieve someone. It’s a little bit like a black hole. It’s a little bit like infinity.

Gottie H. Oppenheimer is losing time. Literally. When the fabric of the universe around her seaside town begins to fray, she’s hurtled through wormholes to her past:

To last summer, when her grandfather Grey died. To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. To the day her best friend Thomas moved away and left her behind with a scar on her hand and a black hole in her memory.

Although Grey is still gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie’s past, present, and future are about to collide – and someone’s heart is about to be broken.

The Square Root of Summer review

The Square Root of Summer is story that highlights how the loss of a loved one can impact every aspect of your life, and the importance of family in times like these. Overall, I thought that the portrayal of grief was heart-breakingly honest, and I felt a real connection with Gottie and her family, and even with Grey, the grandfather Gottie is mourning. Each character has a brilliant quirkiness about them, including Gottie’s German father and her carefree brother.

I did struggle to get to grips with the time travel element to the whole thing, though. Gottie can’t explain why, but she keeps skipping back in time to moments of her past, reliving them as if they’re happening at this very moment. It’s intriguing and unusual, but it was a bit too peculiar and confusing for me and I just couldn’t grasp the concept completely.

At a My Kinda Book event I went to at the end of last year, Harriet revealed that there were no wormholes in the first draft of this novel. Instead, I’m guessing they were the traditional kind of flashbacks we’re used to, but they were added in a later version of the book. I can see what Harriet has tried to do here and I think there will be some big fans of the unique approach to the story, but unfortunately I found that blurring the lines between contemporary and sci-fi like this wasn’t my cup of tea.

My rating:

*** 3/5 stars

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