BOOK: Last Days of Summer by Steve Klugar

I read this novel for the first time a few years ago and absolutely loved every page of it (except for the ending, which really upset me at the time). Now that I’ve read it a second time, I can say without a moment’s hesitation that this book is one of my top ten favorite novels of all time. It’s just wonderful — hilariously funny, incredibly sweet, and an absolute blast to read from start to finish.

The story is about a little boy, Joey Margolis, growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1940’s. Joey’s extremely precocious — sarcastic and stubborn and smart as hell. One of his idols is the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants, Charlie Banks, so Joey decides to write Banks a letter, asking him to hit a home run for him. When Banks responds with a form letter and signed photo, Joey is annoyed but refuses to give up. He starts sending letter after letter to Banks, each one telling an even taller tale of woe (like, that he’s dying of cancer and having Banks hit a homer for him is his last wish in life), in the hopes Banks will take pity on him and do what he wants. Charlie catches on immediately, though, and writes Joey back to tell him to knock it off. But that’s all it takes to get Joey hooked, and soon the two are close friends, Charlie ultimately taking the place of the father Joey never had.

The book is made up of letters, newspaper clippings, and other forms of correspondence, and it touches on a variety of themes surrounding the war. For example, Joey’s best friend is a Japanese boy whose family ends up being shipped off to an internment camp in the West. And eventually, Charlie himself signs up for the military and is shipped off to the Far East. Through it all runs a current of family — a story of a little boy who desperately needs a father and who, through sheer will and smarts, manages to talk one of the most famous New Yorkers into the job.

Last Days of Summer is literally laugh-out-loud funny — I can’t read it on the bus because I make an idiot out of myself by bursting into fits of giggles. And this second time around, the ending felt more “right” to me — possibly because I knew what was coming and thus wasn’t so startled by it. This is a wonderful, WONDERFUL book, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’ve never read this one, oh, how I ENVY you your first time — it’s going to be a truly wonderful few days for you. If you can actually manage to make it last that long!



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7 Responses to “BOOK: Last Days of Summer by Steve Klugar”

  1. Wendy Says:

    Ditto, amen and hear hear! Absolutely one of the best books ever. I’m inspired to re-read it after seeing your review, but yeah, the whole spasmodic-laughing-in-public thing? Bad. See also T.R. Pearson.

  2. megwood Says:

    Ooh, I haven’t read any T.R. Pearson — clearly a major oversight on my part! šŸ™‚

  3. B Says:

    oooh, I read this book. I was subbing several days at a school, and picked this book up on a whim and it kind of sucked me in. I recommended to one of the real readers in the class. Good stuff.

  4. Liz Says:

    This sounds like a good book to me, too – I’m going to look for it. But I have to admit, that I happily burst out laughing in public. I just simply laugh whenever I think something is funny, no matter where I am. I often laugh out loud when I’m all alone; I hear most people don’t do that, to which I respond: “Feh!” (fast becoming one of my favorite rejoinders). I also think that NOT ENOUGH people laugh out loud in public, so I’m rather glad when I do it – I feel like a “ground-breaker” or something!

    BTW, right now I’m reading a book I can’t believe I never read before: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin!” Meg knows of my interest in the Civil War, and this book really seems to mirror a lot of what was going on right up to the war. It also shows that even the most ardent “abolitionists” (people against slavery) were still victims to racism, seeming to think that the African race was more “childlike,” “innocent” and “submissive” than the Whites!!! This makes me think that the issues of Racism, and of Slavery, were two distinct concepts in that era, although they have merged now.

    Sorry! I seem to have gotten on my soapbox again! šŸ™‚ I’ll get off!

  5. megwood Says:

    I laugh loudly and often, myself (and twice as loudly and often when I’m alone, I might add), but I try not to do it on the bus. A person sitting alone who laughs maniacally from time to time for no obvious reason is a bit disconcerting on a city bus. Anybody who has ridden a city bus to/from work every day for a decade has had at least one harrowing experience with a crazy person, so it’s sort of an unspoken code that if you are sane, you do your best not to alarm others by acting oddly.

    Unless you want to make sure nobody sits next to you, of course, in which case I suggest talking loudly to yourself and using the word “apocalypse” a lot.

    I also get annoyed when others on the bus are too loud, especially in the morning, so I try to be cool about respecting that others might feel that way too. Thus, I put this book away when I felt myself needing to stifle the guffaws. And I also won’t watch Jim Gaffigan’s “Beyond the Pale” on my iPod when on the bus for the same reason. šŸ˜‰

  6. my blog Says:

    check this out…

    this is mine…

  7. jason respini Says:

    Steve is a terrific, insightful writer, and a great guy.

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