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Book Excerpt: Jennifer Weiner’s “That Summer”
A perfect read to keep that beach vibe going

Photo: Andrea Cipriani Mecchi

South Jersey first got to know Jennifer Weiner when she was a young Inquirer staffer in the 1990s. She later made the transition to best-selling author with her blockbuster debut “Good in Bed.” Decades later, Weiner continues to crank out funny and relevant novels that take women seriously, speaking to their common experiences – like diets and dating, marriage and motherhood. Her latest novel, “That Summer,” is a sequel to last year’s hit “Big Summer.” Notice a theme? In this excerpt from the book’s first chapter, main characters Daisy and Diana get to know each other via email. It’s the perfect read to make sure that summer vibe lasts just a little longer.

 

Daisy sat up and swung her legs out of bed, sliding her feet along the floor until she found her slippers with her toes. She moved noiselessly through the darkness with the ease of long practice. From the chaise lounge against the wall, a piece of furniture that existed to be a repository for clothes and for baskets of laundry, she picked up her robe, pulling it around her shoulders as she padded down to her desk just off the kitchen. She pulled her laptop free from its charger and carried it to the living room, opening her email in-box. Saks was having a sale; the local library needs volunteers to run the book drive; and she’d been invited to a fiftieth birthday party in Marin County. Brad and I hope you’ll join us for a glorious weekend of wine, food, and reminiscing! read the text, beneath the picture of a verdant vineyard in the honeyed glow of a setting sun. Daisy read on, learning that the party would be at the Vintage Wine Estates, that there was a bike ride planned and a spa day for those who didn’t want to ride, and that cedar-plank salmon and filet mignon would be served at the Saturday night dinner. She felt a little guilty even looking, because this invitation, of course, was not for her. Daisy’s real name was Diana, and she’d used it as part of the email address she’d claimed way back in high school— DianaS at Earthlink. This other woman, the other Diana, was Diana.S at Earthlink. For the last six months, Daisy had been receiving emails that she realized were intended not for her, but for the other Diana.

 

 

The other Diana’s emails were innocuous things—an invitation to a tennis tournament or a dinner or to grab drinks at a bar. Enough to give Daisy a sense of the contours of the other woman’s life, and to realize that, of the 2 of them, the other Diana seemed to be having a lot more fun.

As Lester navigated the stairs on his stumpy legs and heaved himself effortfully onto the couch beside her, Daisy sent the birthday-party invitation email back with a brief note—sorry, I’m the wrong Diana. She was about to open up Facebook and post some obligatory comments—so cute!—on her brother’s latest photographs of his kids when her in-box pinged. A note from the other Diana, with sorry!!! in the memo line, had arrived.

Daisy clicked it open. “I’m so sorry you keep getting my emails. I apologize on behalf of my friends.”

Daisy stared at the missive, and then, before she could overthink, she wrote back. “No worries,” she typed. “I’m enjoying living your life vicariously (in lieu of having my own).” The instant she’d hit “send” she was instantly awash with regret. Had she sounded too flip? Too snobby? Did anyone say “in lieu” anymore? Should she have included an emoji, or at least written “LOL”?

She’d been on the verge of panic when her in-box had dinged again. “LOL,” the other Diana had written. “I’m a corporate consultant based in NYC. It’s nonstop glamour.” With the rolling-eye emoji after that.

“Anything is more glamorous than my life,” Daisy typed. “I have a teenager who hates me, a husband who’s never home, and an old dog with digestive issues.” She hit “send” before she could rethink it. “Sorry, Lester,” she murmured. Lester gave her a mournful look, loosed a sonorous fart, and rearranged himself against her leg, where he promptly went back to sleep . . . and, then, again, her in-box was pinging. This time Diana had sent three emojis, all of the scrunched-up, tears-coming-out-of-its-eyes laughing face. “I don’t have any children, but I have teenage nieces. I truly believe that teenage girls are God’s revenge on women for what they did to their mothers,” she wrote.

“I know she doesn’t really hate me. She’s trying to be independent. It’s what she’s supposed to do,” Daisy wrote back. After 3 different people had recommended it, she’d read a persuasive book that made the case about teenage girls and the work of separation, and she was trying hard to believe the words as she typed them.

“You’re right,” Diana replied. “But it still must be hard.”

“She’s probably going to be expelled from her school,” Daisy typed. “My husband and I are leaving first thing in the morning to drive to New Hampshire to meet with the headmaster.” Daisy, who’d been raised casually Jewish, had never been to a confessional, but she imagined the rite to feel something like this, sitting in the dark and telling all your sins to a stranger.

“Yikes,” wrote Diana. “Is that why you’re awake at 2 in the morning?”

“I have insomnia,” Daisy wrote. “Me and every other middle-aged woman.”

“Same here,” wrote Diana. “It’s the worst. And I’m sorry about your daughter.”

Daisy appreciated that the expression of sympathy wasn’t paired with a request for information, a demand to know what Beatrice had done to get in trouble. “Do you feel like you’re the one who’s been called to the principal’s office?” Diana wrote.

“Headmaster, not principal,” Daisy typed, rolling her eyes, even as she felt grateful. For all his complaining, for all of his fury at Beatrice, Hal hadn’t seemed to realize that Beatrice’s expulsion had left Daisy feeling like she’d been the one found lacking. “And yes. I feel judged.”

For a moment, there was nothing. Then another email appeared, “I bet you could use a treat. If you’ve got a free night and can meet me in New York, I’ll buy you the best Bloody Mary of your life.” And again, Daisy barely hesitated before she typed the word Yes.

September 2021
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