Summer Light

Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson’s great gift for the telling detail and strong sense of the emotional shoals lurking just beneath even the calmest surface have inspired comparisons to literary greats like John Cheever, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. In her first novel, we meet Laura, a 29-year-old wife, mother, sister, friend, lover, and erstwhile photographer whose life is painfully out of focus. A month’s vacation on the Maine coast with her son, her lover, Ward, and her sister’s family is supposed to be an idyllic period of sustenance and calm, but for Laura, who believes that “entropy governed the world, the universe, and the dinner hour,” it turns into the ultimate test of her ability to trust herself and others. With trademark intensity and a deft touch for character and place, Robinson creates a perceptive, believable, and gently humorous portrait of an individual “waiting for something that would set her life in order.” Laura is as much a study of light and shadow as the photographs she takes. Beautiful but insecure, talented but unwilling to take risks, loved but unable to make a commitment, she is paralyzed by fear and locked into a stasis that Ward is no longer willing to accept. “You don’t dare take a stand on anything,” he tells her. “You’re so terrified of failure you don’t dare do anything.” When her estranged husband arrives for a weekend visit, however, the emotional collision rocks Laura’s inaction, causing a tiny shake of the kaleidoscope that creates a vastly different pattern. The image is razor sharp at last: “As though she were changing lenses, as though she had suddenly discovered another light source,” she sees that her life is her own. That new understanding empowers her to make a symbolic — and a literal — leap of faith that saves her own life and the lives of those she loves.

Paper: $14.95 | E-book: $13.99
ISBN-13: 9780874517385
Pages: 212 | Size: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
Date Published: August 1, 1995


  • Robinson's writing is almost flawless. She is a sharp observer . . . [who] goes after emotions we want to understand – fragile love, nervous lust, coldness, and regret.

  • Dramatic, fast-paced, boasting both engaging characters and an optimistic resolution of its conflict, this well-written novel will make good summer reading.

    Library Journal
  • [A] beguiling story rich with the lessons we all should have learned from Henry James and Edith Wharton.

    Susan Cheever
  • Summer Light has the economy and precision of a beautifully constructed play; [it] is an admirable and moving novel, and I'm glad I read it.

    James McConkey

About the Author

Roxana Robinson

Roxana Robinson is the author of eleven books—seven novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were chosen as New York Times Notable Books, two as New York Times Editors’ Choices.

Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Best American Short Stories, The Southampton Review, Ep!phany and elsewhere. Her work has been widely anthologized and broadcast on NPR. Her books …

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