Halpern’s descriptions of Kit and Cal as 'friendly and companionable' and 'happily enough married' are clearly intended to show Kit’s failure to examine anything under the surface — but the surface itself is too often unexamined as well. Despite these flaws, the novel pays off in sheer plotting. Much as she gave the in-laws a very particular kind of awfulness, Halpern crafts a gratifyingly unexpected, effective answer to the question of what happened between Kit and Cal, with outed secrets and surprising solutions that she plays for minimum melodrama and with realistic warmth. Like Riverton itself, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library feels artfully balanced between the reality of loss and a carefully guarded hope for renewal.
Told partly from Sunny’s perspective and partly from Kit’s, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library uses the differences in the two protagonists’ ages, experiences and upbringing to its advantage. With her new novel, Sue Halpern offers the perfect way to experience a small-town community filled with lovable characters, mysterious happenings, a little bit of romance and hopeful ending.
This intense character-exploration story draws you along wondering, What the heck happened to Kit to make her so closed to human relationships? The novel’s structure carefully conceals the answer until the end. Little clues are trickled out, enough to give you some ideas and keep your curiosity a-humming; meanwhile, the author adroitly distracts you with other people’s sad and sometimes oddball tales ... So, quietly and eloquently, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library seduces you into caring about a cast of characters representing people you probably know, if not yourself, too. It provokes deep thoughts and exposes profound truths in a classic literary style without taking itself too seriously. Kit’s sarcastic honesty, Sunny’s undaunted curiosity, and Rusty’s blithe resilience lead them all to get what they deserve in an upbeat way.
Halpern (A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home, 2013), a master of precise, warmhearted creative nonfiction and a discerning and sensitive novelist, infuses this tale of derailments and second chances with free-ranging empathy, lithe humor, and penetrating insights into the human psyche ... The adversity-defined perspectives and piquant senses of humor possessed by Halpern’s irresistible characters shape this inclusively appealing novel’s searingly candid yet ultimately benevolent worldview. Finely choreographed and lucidly told, Halpern’s uplifting tale peers into suffering both random and inflicted with malice, then works its way with wisdom and charm to an unfazed celebration of supportive communities—epicenters of kindness and teasing, skepticism and respect, nosiness and generosity, backed by a low-key affirmation of just how essential public libraries—oases, bedrocks, incubators, launching pads—are to our lives, our democracy, and our future.
In this sentimental tale, a woman struggles to believe in the inherent kindness at the heart of the human psyche ... The story unfolds at a leisurely pace ... When at last the final chapter of her sad Marriage Story is revealed, along with an explanation of the attendant trauma, the pace suddenly speeds up and the denouement feels both rushed and not quite satisfying. All that said, the characters are engaging, each in his or her own way, and readers will root for the happy ending they hope the benevolent gods will send their way.
Halpern’s clever and touching latest (following A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home) unites a disparate cast of characters who have come to the town library for a variety of reasons ... Rusty’s story line gives the novel a light mystery element, but the characters are the highlight here: their relationships are illuminating and evolve throughout, resulting in a crowd-pleasing tale of friendship.
Journalist-author Halpern (A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home, 2013, etc.) has written a sweet if mild novel with genuine charm ... The last part suffers from too many teachable moments, mostly involving Kit’s overly wise shrink, Dr. Bondi. And the switching back and forth between narrators is distracting. Still, the novel is suffused with a love of books and reading—each section starts with a line of poetry from a noted poet—and in the end, the library’s endearing denizens prove to be very good company.