The Summer of Impossible Things

      Publisher: Ebury Press 

      RRP: £12.99

      Author: Rowan Coleman 

      Published:  2017-06-29




If you could change the past, would you? Thirty years ago, something terrible happened to Luna's mother. Now Luna and her sister have a chance to go back to their mother's birthplace and settle her affairs. But in Brooklyn they find more questions than answers, until something impossible - magical - happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977. If she can truly travel back in time, she can change things. But in doing everything to save her mother's life, will she have to sacrifice her own?


Rowan Coleman is most certainly an author to watch.


This novel, described in the publisher’s blurb as “The Time Traveller’s Wife for a new generation”, sets its target pretty high with that lofty comparison - and it delivers. Part the aforementioned The Time Traveller’s Wife, part BBC TV show Life On Mars, we find ourselves mired deep in the grief and regret experienced by our protagonist, Luna, and her sister Pia, as they travel to their mother’s childhood home in Brooklyn after her untimely death. Told in the first person by Luna, the tale depicts both the loss and longing for a recently deceased loved one, as well as the unanswered questions and regrets which follow an unexpected bereavement.

Luna is experiencing strange blackouts, and is worried she may have epilepsy. She is hiding this from her family when the symptoms become worse, and she suddenly finds herself in the long, hot summer of 1977. She questions whether this is real or the symptoms of a brain tumour, while desperately wanting it to be true. The reader is with Luna in this uncertainty at first, and her fear over her health is palpable as it gradually morphs into hope that she may be able to change the past.

The author conjures up the heat drenched, lazy days of a crowded city in a heatwave in vivid detail and, in some ways, 1977 is much more vividly realised than the time in which the present of The Summer of Impossible Things takes place (2007). The differences in attitudes, technology, and prejudice between the two time periods are also brought into sharp relief.

Luna rejoices in befriending the woman who will give birth to her while plotting to change her history and dealing with the increasingly violent transitions between the two times. As she knows the time and date of the events she intends to undo, Luna is able to enjoy the time with the younger, freer and happier woman who will one day be her mother, while there is a growing sense of urgency in having a single chance to put the past right. Luna’s determination mixes with fear as she realises what this might mean for her own life, and a sense of loss as she contemplates losing the relationships she develops with the residents of 1977. There is a little dark humour, too, both in Luna’s physical disappearance from one time period, and her attempts to fit in with a culture which is really quite alien to her.

The Summer of Impossible Things has, in the characters of Luna and her mother, two well realised, well rounded women at the centre of a sad story; women who have strengths and weaknesses, faults and flaws, innocence and realism in equal measure. The narrative is utterly absorbing and the mounting urgency of the events propels the reader to continue to turn pages, long after one intended to turn out the light. The story keeps both the reader and Luna guessing, with twists and turns along the way and an ending which is a deeply satisfying resolution to the tale. In short, The Summer of Impssible Things is a highly enjoyable book and Rowan Coleman is most certainly an author to watch.