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The Summer of the Great-Grandmother

(Crosswicks Journals #2)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,215 ratings  ·  203 reviews
This journal offers a loving and poignant portrait of L'Engle's mother in old age that is more about living than dying.
Paperback, 245 pages
Published January 1st 1984 by HarperSanFrancisco (first published 1974)
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Dianna If you look at the title of the book at the top of the page, you will see in grey, in parentheses, the name of the series. You can click on this to se…moreIf you look at the title of the book at the top of the page, you will see in grey, in parentheses, the name of the series. You can click on this to see the other books in the series. The first is called A Circle of Quiet.(less)

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Cindy Rollins
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Life is a fugue. Our lives and memories overlap and run into one another. Perhaps, if I had not spent 20 days this summer at a hospice house this book would only have 4 stars but for me this is the summer of the great grandfather and not a word was wasted. Five whole stars worth of words.

And then there are the chapters of stories, stories taking place in places I also know and love, that old Florida which I stare into nightly in a painting on my wall. Sometimes I almost fall into it and this bo
...more
Rebecca
In this second volume of The Crosswicks Journal (after A Circle of Quiet), L’Engle recounts her family history as a way of remembering on behalf of her mother, who at age 90 was slipping into dementia in her final summer. “I talked awhile, earlier this summer, about wanting my mother to have a dignified death. But there is nothing dignified about incontinence and senility.” She found herself in the unwanted position of being like her mother’s mother, and had to accept that she had no control ove ...more
ladydusk
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Own.

Much to consider. What is the essence of a person, the ousia? A wonderful follow-up to A Circle of Quiet. L'Engle wrestles with life, death, identity, and the soul.

I particularly loved the section of her mother's ancestry and the stories of the people in her family tree. I loved their informal education.
Pam Reid
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Madeleine L'Engle chronicles the last summer of her mother's life with love, honesty, and, yes, even her doubts. The loss of a beloved parent is one of the most difficult of life's experiences even though it is one of the most natural. I was deeply touched by L'Engle's struggle and quest for peace in this second journal of hers that I have read.
Barbara Lovejoy
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read other books my Madeleine like Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, but this book sounded entirely different. I don't remember now where I heard about it. I think it was mentioned in another book I was reading. Nevertheless, it was wonderful. My greatest take away was how important it is to share stories in our families. They will bless our lives.
Jenny
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-with-dad
This one came at a good time. We had to say good-bye to our dog at the end of August, and reading this helped with some of the emotions that one goes through when one suffers a loss of any kind. I read this mostly with my dad, and we both enjoyed L'Engle's writing, as usual, but we also enjoyed the stories about her great grandparents, grandparents, and parents. They are fun, interesting, and exciting stories. The sections about her present time with her mother are sad and moving. L'Engle does a ...more
Julie
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
I am not a huge Madeleine L'Engle fan. This book is the second in a trilogy based at the author's home, Crosswicks, I believe. It gives quite a good history of her illustrious ancestors and talks a bit about her mother's declining health and dementia. I feel that maybe she was whitewashing things quite a bit. Not so much about her mother but about her own life and the life of her ancestors. Wouldn't recommend it-seemed very pretentious.
Michaela
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
This is one of the first books I've read in a while that has let me cry - written beautifully, conveying emotions honestly and truthfully. I love L'Engle's autobiographical works. They make me feel a little bit "normal", and inspire me remarkably - to write, to read, even to do my homework!
Becca
3.5 out of 5 stars

Not as enjoyable as the first Crosswicks book (all that family reminiscing got a little boring for me), but still a fantastic read. I admit that I'm growing annoyed by Madeleine L'Engle's struggle to simply believe. Some things she wants to believe, but somehow can't, at least not all the time. I wonder: Is she just more honest than the rest of us?
Deborah Duke
Jul 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: becpl, nonfiction
I found this to be an easier read than A Circle of Quiet. In it we learn about L'Engle's childhood, about her mother's early years, and about her mother's family. It is really quite interesting. All of this is recorded in a contemplative style. The book is set during L'Engle's final summer with her mother, and it is obviously a bit sad at times, but never overly sentimental.

Quotes I liked:

"There is little character or loveliness in the face of someone who has avoided suffering, shunned risk, re
...more
Blair
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I love Madeleine L'Engle's YA fiction and have for over 20 years. I've read several of her novels for the first time as an adult and thought they were wonderful (The Joys of Love and A Ring of Endless Light, for example). This was the first nonfiction book I've read by her, and while it is full of many poignant moments about treasuring the time we have with loved ones and insights about family love, conflict, and grief, overall I found Parts 2 and 3 (the middle two parts, out of four) to be dull ...more
Melinda Ross
Aug 16, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is the 2nd in a 4 or 5 part series. I only read this one for book group. I might have benefited by reading the first, only because my biggest complaint about the book is that the author refers to people at times and expects you to know who she is talking about. I am going to assume she introduces those people to us in the first book. Other than that, I think it is a fairly good stand alone book.

The book deals with the real life feelings and struggles of watching a parent enter a secon
...more
Pam Kennedy
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book caught my eye today as I browsed the eclectic collection of new and used books at Green Mountain Books in Lyndon, Vermont. I was introduced to L'Engle's non-fiction by my friend, Carol, who lent me Tow Part Invention, a wonderful portrait of a marriage. This book is supposed to address aging, a topic that both intrigues and repels me as I make my way through my sixties and towards the next chapter of my life.
Mimi
Mar 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2013
While I didn't find this as strong as her other non-fiction, I really enjoyed her account of taking care of her mother in her last days. She openly discusses the grieving process, including the memories that flood you during this time. The mid-section is these memories, which is not as interesting as the beginning and end, hence the three star review.
Highly recommended, however.
Apryl Anderson
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Sweet, nostalgic and very autobiographical. I love the way L'Engle finds the common thread that runs through the generations of her family--and I'm dead jealous that her ancestors stories weren't some deep, dark embarrassing secret. This inspires me to delve into my genealogical closet…
Renee
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is touching and brings up all the feels. Highly recommend
Annette
Three and one half stars. I enjoyed the Crosswicks Journals 1-4 many years ago. L'Engle's glimpse into her life as a writer, wife, parent and friend was refreshing as I tried to juggle all of the balls.

The Summer of the Great-Grandmother was most interesting to me because of living in the southern city she refers to in her writing. I am intimately familar with the places and stories she tells. I will say her account of the great fire of Jacksonville contains one slight inaccuracy. The fire was s
...more
Debby
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very touching book about the final summer spent with the four generations of L'Engle's family in ther summer home; it being (unknoweinlgy at that time) her mother's final summer.
L'Engle is dealing with the reality of her mother's physical decline, as well as her mental decline due to dementia. This book is a tribute to her mother's life; the mother she knew, the mother she didn't know and the impact this all has on the present sitution.
A very touching and thought provoking book. L'Eg
...more
Lisa Lawrence
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would give this book all 5 glorious, glowing stars but for the fact that i think it's appeal is limited. The book may not have been so relevant to me at an earlier age. Now, with parents gone and even friends dying, the subject of life and death, guilt and relationships, and even spirituality, have grown into their true and enormous importance. When we understand that our parents are people apart from their role as parent, it allows them to be more accepted and appreciated, I think. It follows ...more
Allison
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book felt like coming home to sit next to Madeleine and listen to her stories. I loved the first journal in this series, A Circle of Quiet, and this second one was just as delightful, if not more so, simply because I love family history stories and this book had loads of them. What a special treat to have encountered this book! I couldn't put it down.
Susanne
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an intimate and honest report about a woman watching her mother's health deteriorating and praying for her death. I have met countless women in these circumstances, worrying and fearing the approaching aging of their mothers. Madeleine LÉngle does not see it through pink glasses, she is facing the musik and she is honest to a fault.
Manda
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book really resonated with me, as we are currently watching my husband's sweet 91-year-old mom decline with dementia. Reading about how others have navigated this sad and painful journey was somehow comforting in the midst of the sorrow.
Mikejencostanzo
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
It is books like The Summer of the Great-Grandmother that help me to remember my passion for touching the past. Books like this that capture a bit of the wonder that I literally teeter on the edge of as I sit and listen to my own Grandmothers tell of their lives. With each of my four Grandmothers, I have talked & listened at great length. Two have now died. One, I have had the distinct pleasure of helping to finish her own memoirs. The fourth, I long to know better. I can relate to author Madeli ...more
Ellen
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
L'Engle's memoir of the summer her 90-year-old mother took a steep decline into dementia (and ultimately passed away). I reacted to this book on three different and almost entirely separate levels:

1. It is impossible for me to talk about this book without mentioning the fact that my 89-year-old grandmother is currently undergoing a similar (but slower) decline. Some parts were eerily, almost uncomfortably familiar -- both the ways her mother is affected by her dementia and L'Engle's reactions to
...more
Literary Mama
Sep 25, 2015 added it
Shelves: memoir
From "Now Reading" by Literary Mama staff:

Only a month after moving back to my home state of Georgia, I was excited to be able to attend the Decatur Book Festival, the largest independent book festival in the US. As a volunteer at this great event, I was given the opportunity to select books from a used book tent for free! I happily snagged A Lost Lady, Willa Cather's novel about an unconventional woman, Home Economics, Wendell Berry's collection of essays on our stewardship responsibility, and
...more
Jennifer
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If anything, this memoir reveals the importance of story. And not just the story of an individual but stories that make up the self on a genetic level. In other words, my life story couldn't have happened without the stories of my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and so on. I embody many characteristics of these great women in my life. Perhaps knowing the stories of these women would enhance those wonderful qualities within myself. Fore, to know where and whom you come from is a powerful ...more
KadyWrites
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I prefer to read these journal books of L'Engle's slowly, a chapter a day or so, to let her words sink in and to mull around in the back of my brain. I do this because she has a unique gift to get to the essence of things, people, and periods of life, she finds the ousia and shares it with her readers. That gift was especially important with this book as she shares about the process of her mother aging and dying.

As part of the millennial generation it was incredibly beautiful to see the family
...more
Christy Baker
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think of this as a quiet book, contemplative in nature. This reminiscence of Madeline L'Engle's is a tribute to her mother the last summer of her mother's life, but encompasses much of the tender challenges, reflections and memory as we accompany any loved one at the end of living into a time of crossing over. The self doubts, the snippets of story and ancestral history, the acknowledgment of simple blessings and meaning-making touched my heart as I watch my own parents' age and know this is n ...more
Miss Clark
"Mado died a year before I was born, and yet I feel that I have always known her, the stories about her are so vivid. I have never heard her name mentioned by anybody in our enormous Southern clan without its evoking a smile. There have been several Montague - Capulet schisms in my mother's family, but I have never heard an unloving word about Mado."

Part memoir, part remembrance and entirely a story. About her childhood and her relationship with her parents. About how she viewed her parents and
...more
Josh
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Like the first Crosswicks book, this one provides a warm, candid, and thoughtful entry into the private life of L'Engle and her family-- but where that volume was fairly rollicking and free-wheeling in its reflections on faith, art, and mystery, this one is quite a bit more structured. It's divided into four sections-- the first, an aching diary-entry account of caring for a loved one in the final days of dementia; the second and third, attempts to remember that loved one's history, and the hist ...more
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Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her young adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regener ...more

Other books in the series

Crosswicks Journals (4 books)
  • A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journals #1)
  • The Irrational Season (Crosswicks Journals, #3)
  • Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (The Crosswicks Journal, #4)

News & Interviews

Author and illustrator Alice Oseman is known to her long-time fans for her young adult novels about—as she calls them—"teenage disasters," start...
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