Every Now and Then by Lesley Kagen
10/6/20; 296 pages
Crooked Lane Books
Every Now and Then by Lesley Kagen is a highly recommended coming-of-age story set in Wisconsin during the 1960's.
During a hot, scorching summer in the small town of Summit Wisconsin
evil visits three eleven-year-old friends. Elizabeth “Biz” Buchanan,
Frances “Frankie” Maniachi, and Vivian “Viv” Cleary are starting their
summer staying in their tree house hideout and making plans for their
summer while staying in the good graces of Biz’s Aunt Jane May who
watches the three girls. One of their places to surreptitiously visit is
the Broadhurst Mental Institution, where they hide and watch the
grounds or stand by a fence and visit with some of the patients allowed
to go out in the yard. They know several people who work there and keep
an eye on their activities. They also hear that something suspicious is
going on there and there may be a "chamber of horrors" in the basement.
Beyond this, the girls have plenty of other places to go and things to
explore during their summer.
In the novel Biz is reflecting back on this summer during her childhood that changed her life and the lives of her friends. Readers know from the start that something bad is going to happen to the girls so the suspense builds while the plot unfolds languidly as the girls make their plans and speculate about various gossip and happenings in their town. They are still preteen girls enjoying their summer vacation during what would normally be a more innocent time. Certainly the girls would have the freedom to ride their bikes here and there, feeling the invincibility that only the young can really embrace until something changes that feeling of security.
The girls are well-developed characters and all portrayed as having
very different personalities while still getting along and being best
friends and "tree-musketeers." Kagen covers all the bases that make this
a compelling coming-of-age story. You can see the personalities of the
girls and how those characteristics will take them on to adulthood. You
can also clearly see that these are girls and they don't quite
understand all the things happening around them or things they overhear
or that are said to them.
This is a well-written, enjoyable novel that was an entertaining, quick read. Kagan does an excellent job tying up all the loose ends and giving the narrative a very satisfying conclusion. Biz is a great choice as the character to tell the story of that summer. Truly a "story about the ties that bind us, the timelessness of grief and guilt—and the everlasting hope for redemption."
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.