“I lost my father between dusk and summer.
Perhaps he left me long before I care to admit, long before he refused his last meals, long before his spent eyes flickered like candles behind cracked panes of some forlorn, abandoned house. Before his neglected muscles jellied into the folds of his stark white hospital sheet, and the rise of his chest grew shallower and weak. Maybe it was plain selfishness on my behalf; sitting at his bedside all those times, soothing his ears with encouragement as I squeezed his hand, desperate to impart the very courage and determination he had infused into me over my years. Even as he relied on me to raise a flimsy plastic cup of ice water to his parched lips. Had I become too scared to realize or just too blinded to ask: whose fight did this now become?”
Great writing always comes from somewhere genuine inside the author. Influences are numerous, of course; a novel could be born out of something beautiful, something sorrowful or even something ugly, but the best writing is always a reflection of one’s truest self. For novelists, the keyboard is the translator of the soul’s voice. As George Orwell once famously said, “good prose is like a windowpane.”
From the very first page of Joseph Pinto’s Dusk and Summer, quoted above, the reader knows that he or she is in for something heartfelt—and breathtakingly real.
Even if I hadn’t read that Pinto’s novella was inspired by his real life, it would have been obvious from the outset. I understand it completely, having gone through similarly heartwrenching experiences; I understand the place where this story is coming from, and why it needed to be told. The emotions stirred up are passionately real, and Dusk and Summer is sure to create a stirringly empathic response in anyone who has ever lost a parent. The mix of emotions is not saccharine, but amazingly genuine. The sadness, the anger, the guilt, the unrelenting feeling that now, out of nowhere, the person who gave so much to you needs your help—and there’s no way you can ever fully repay them.
In the novella, the protagonist goes off on a strange journey at his father’s request. He ventures out to the beach, where he rediscovers his father’s past—uncovering a fascinating and mythological being that his father kept secret for all of his years. This magical presence integrates perfectly into the story, fleshing out its meaning and representing all of the magic that good parents give to their children, the magic that many hope to someday transfer to their own children.
And as the protagonist must go off and discover his past, so must all children. When the time comes, when parents cease to be icons and are revealed for the real, flawed people they truly are—this is when true understanding can finally occur. Dusk and Summer is a deeply authentic novel, with a beautiful message that won’t be soon forgotten.