A Summons to Memphis

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

I’m in Memphis to read the Pulitzer Group Read for August. It is a wonderful tale of a family in mid-20th Century Memphis, moved after a family financial difficulty from a rather different Southern city: Nashville. It is a beautifully written tale of family, the harms members do to one another, wittingly or not, and of potential for forgiveness and new understanding that come with maturity. This is the first book I have finished for the Bout of Books Readathon.

July to Sept. Update:

  • Orange July 1 2 3
  • Around the World: Africa: 1, 2 Asia 1 South America 1 2 3 4 5 6 Other countries 1 2 3 4
  • 1001 Books 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
  • Nobel: July Aug Sept
  • Pulitzer: July Aug Sept
  • Great African Reads: July Aug Sept

My Goodreads Review:

A Summons to MemphisA Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully crafted book. Phillip Carver is summonned back to Memphis by his sisters after their father becomes romantically involved with a new partner following the death of their mother. From this premise unfolds a complex tale of Memphis culture and family politics. The family had moved in the children’s teen years from Nashville, in the Upper South, to Memphis, in the Deep South in the years just before WWII. The move leaves scars on each of the family members, except perhaps father George, and it reverberates through the family’s interactions for years to come. Peter Taylor narrates through a maturing Phillip, who has long since left the family nest for the military and then a literary career in New York. His cultural and temporal distance from the family allows him to observe the family with more perspective and a degree of emotional distance unavailable to the daughters and father who had remained in Memphis together in the intervening years. The novel explores the capacity of adult children to grow to new understandings of themselves, their families, and their history with increased maturity and the changing relationships that come with the aging of parents. The language is beautiful, and the characterization is achieved with great skill. The book deserves the Pulitzer for it’s marvelous capturing, as well, of a slice of the Southern culture of the period.

View all my reviews


About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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2 Responses to A Summons to Memphis

  1. Pingback: Bout of Books Readathon | Beth's List Love

  2. vanbraman says:

    Thanks for the great post Beth. I also gave the book four stars when I read it. Here is the short review I wrote for it:
    A Summons to Memphis won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. Taylor makes good use of flashbacks to tell the story of a Memphis family as they adapt to changes in the Father’s life. An interesting look at how society changed during the lifetime of the Father and how his actions affected the lives of his children.

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