Friday, June 9, 2017


The Gypsy Moth Summer
by Julia Fierro
Published June 6th 2017 by St. Martin's Press
Hardcover, 400 pages

It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island--dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island's leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conservation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.

It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall—only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family—returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in “The Castle,” the island's grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.

Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working-class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island's bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island—and its patriarch, the Colonel—be to blame?

As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie’s and Brooks’ passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.

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As a reviewer, I have found that if you just conquered a challenging book consequently the review will be just as challenging to write and therefore that is the position I am in, Argh. The book for me consisted of both good and bad, however the bad surpassed the good in my eyes. Whereas, the concept of the book had potential. It felt like the author took a wrong turn, losing focus on what the actual point of the book was meant to be. Was it the poisoning of the island and it’s people, which is rarely mentioned? When that could have made the plot more powerful. Or instead was it the craziness of 97.0% of the characters that constructed most of the book. Out of the copious amount of characters in the book Victoria was my favorite, but an act of hostility that she was behind left me perplexed at why it occurred. Nevertheless, I found her to be the grandest of all the residents of Avalon Island due to what she learned about herself even if it was in her later years. The book is told in separate chapters by an exorbitant amount of characters six to be exact. Thus, kudos to the author for having these many people tell their point of the story without it getting confusing.

Of course, Maddie knew the caterpillars (Lymantria dispar dispar, repeat after me) had been lying in wait all winter, cozy in their furred egg sacs tucked in the crooks of trees covering the island. Waiting patiently for their turn….And she too wanted to believe in a sense of order, divine providence or whatever-a sign-linking the arrival of Leslie Day Marshall’s family and the metamorphosis of the island, overnight, into a nest of ravenous pests.

All things considered, there are many positive aspects of the book some I mentioned above. Unquestionably I enjoyed learning about all the different stages of the Gypsy Moth, the flowers and their scientific names including the eccentricity of the evergreen labyrinth which I could imagine myself wandering lost for hours in. Thus, it was a nice concept to place random pages of facts regarding the Gypsy Moths throughout the book and at the beginning of each of the five parts of the book. Personally, I think the author has a favorable writing style, however, the constructing of the story was a bit of an issue. Finally, these two futile elements overtook the greatest allotments of this book causing me to become indifferent towards the story. First, what was the point of the endless chapters of the teens residing on Avalon Island congregating in the castle's ballroom together to do mushrooms, smoke pot, pop any type of pill and drinking alcohol? Second, the spotlight on Jules ceaseless attempt on saving his trees for the most part with his bare hands from the destruction of the Gypsy Moth to the point of madness possibly, even driving the reader themselves mad.

They’d brought treats. Each waited their turn to offer up their goodies to Brooks, along with a fist bump, an up-nod, a hug if you were Bitsey-and the way she pressed her boobs up against Brooks made Maddie squint. Garrit brought an eighth of kind bud. Ricky a block of tar-black hashish he’d scored at a Grateful Dead concert, wrapped in tinfoil. There was a plastic baggie of shake left over from the shrooms, and John, Austin, and Rolo had gone in on a beer keg.

Julia Fierro is the author of the novels The Gypsy Moth Summer(St. Martin’s Press, 2017) and Cutting Teeth (St. Martin’s Press, 2014).

A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she was awarded a Teaching-Writing Fellowship, Julia founded The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop in 2002, and it has since become a creative home to over 3,500 writers in NYC, Los Angeles, and Online. Sackett Street was named a “Best NYC Writing Workshop” by The Village Voice, Time Out NY, and Brooklyn Magazine, and a “Best MFA-Alternative” by Poets & Writers and the L Magazine.

Julia’s work has been published, or is forthcoming, in The Millions, Poets & Writers, Flavorwire, Glamour, Psychology Today, and other publications, and she has been profiled in the L Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, The Observer and The Economist.

She lives in Brooklyn and Santa Monica with her husband, writer Justin Feinstein, and their two children.

Julia Fierro’s TLC Book Tour STOPS:
Wednesday, May 31st: BookNAround
Friday, June 2nd: View from the Birdhouse
Sunday, June 4th: Writer Unboxed – author guest post
Monday, June 5th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, June 6th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Wednesday, June 7th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, June 8th: Bibliotica
Friday, June 9th: Readaholic Zone
Monday, June 12th: Girl Who Reads
Tuesday, June 13th: Suzy Approved
Wednesday, June 14th: Bookchickdi
Thursday, June 15th: Wildmoo Books
Friday, June 16th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, June 19th: BookBub Blog – author guest post
Monday, June 19th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, June 20th: Anita Loves Books
Wednesday, June 21st: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, June 22nd: Write Read Life
Friday, June 23rd: I Brought a Book
Monday, June 26th: Art, Books, & Coffee
Tuesday, June 27th: Book Chatter
Wednesday, June 28th: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, June 29th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, June 30th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, June 30th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

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