Summer Cannibalsby Melanie Hobson
A bold and gripping literary debut about three very different sisters who return to their grand family home to face their tumultuous pasts
Summoned to their magnificent family home on the shores of Lake Ontario—a paradisiacal mansion perched on an escarpment above the city—three adult sisters Georgina, Jax, and Pippa, come together in what seems like an act of family solidarity. Pregnant and unwell, the youngest, Pippa, has left her husband and four young children in New Zealand and returned home to heal. But home to this family means secrets, desire, and vengeance—and feasting on the sexual appetites and weaknesses of others. Each daughter has her own particular taste, and overlaying everything is their parents, with unquenchable desires and cravings of their own.
As the affluent family endures six intense days in one another’s company, old fissures reappear. When long-buried truths finally come to light, the sisters and their parents must face the unthinkable consequences of their actions.
Summer Cannibals is a riveting, psychological story of lust, betrayal, and family, from a brilliant new voice in fiction.
“As its title suggests, the novel offers something darker than a pleasant summer beach read, as the characters cycle between affection and dysfunction, secrets among the sisters swiftly flare up, and an abusive relationship between the girls’ parents is complicated by the fact that the mother both loathes and craves her husband’s violence. And the backdrop of the sprawling house perched on the lake’s cliff is as dramatic a setting as the plot itself.”—Vanity Fair “This Fall’s Best Fiction”
“We’ve seen this type of dysfunctional family before, but first novelist Hobson refreshes the trope in a family psychodrama that upends the old stereotype that all Canadians are bland and inoffensive. David is an egocentric monster, while Margaret is both his victim and enabler, yet their adult children still crave their approval…Over the course of a disastrous weekend in August, family secrets come to light and tensions reach a boiling point, as a darkly comic garden tour from hell brings disturbing strangers into the mix. David’s elaborate garden is practically a character of its own. Hobson draws a riveting picture of twisted family dynamics in this compulsively readable novel”—Library Journal
“Discontent rumbles and then crashes down, thanks to the airing of decades of family offenses—resentments that have been carefully tended with the same attention that is given to the rose garden that wraps around the family’s funky mansion. By turns darkly comical and horrifying, Summer Cannibals holds attention.”—Foreward Reviews
“Hobson’s narrative is calm even when her consideration of individual characters is interrupted by flashes of wild revelation or event, from the farcical garden tour to the perilous fall of a newborn off a cliff. In the novel’s surreal, sexually avid, sometimes fairy-tale world, such extremes might shock, or else might appear to be false starts, keeping the reader off balance within a teetering landscape. A tale of scorching family dysfunction that ranges among the gothic, domestic, and carnal, snagging the reader’s attention with its odd, unpredictable vision.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Summer might be over, but you should still make room on your bookshelf for Summer Cannibals. This beautifully written book about a dysfunctional wealthy family and their secrets is the perfect first fall read.”—Hello Giggles
“Appetites. Repression. Frustration. Creativity. Worth. These are the words that come to mind when describing Melanie Hobson’s debut, Summer Cannibals (Black Cat, PB $16). Behind the facade of a rambling house (that itself is a character in this novel) lies some very dark stuff.”—35 over 35
“In her debut novel, Melanie Hobson offers a cast of characters so self-consumed it feels surreal to read from their perspectives . . . It’s fun to read about people behaving badly, and this novel is nothing if not entertaining. Tolstoy taught us “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Hobson gives the phrase new life with this lot.”—The Coil
“Dark, risky and as gorgeous as the ocean at midnight, Hobson’s exquisitely written debut gathers a fractured grown family together for six dangerous days of lust, longing, sex, secrets and stunning betrayals. The story may be set in the languid days of summer, but My God, it’s a terrific scorcher.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow, and Cruel Beautiful World
“An elegant, sexy story of four scarred but undaunted women and one seriously monstrous patriarch, Summer Cannibals simmers languidly up to an explosive finale which reminds us, in an unforgettable manner, that no institution in our lives is more powerful or perilous than our families. Melanie Hobson’s indelible voice somehow conveys both boundless compassion for human frailty and wit as lethal as a straight razor held at the base of the throat. Family dysfunction at its finest.”—Ed Tarkington, author of Only Love Can Break Your Heart
“Melanie Hobson writes with the dark energy and twisted exuberance reminiscent of her most celebrated predecessors—Atwood, Murdoch, Oates, and so many others plumbing the raw, violent depths of toxic families. Her mesmerizing characters are semi-feral, trapped and struggling under the terrible weight of what a man can do to a girl, a daughter, a wife. Summer Cannibals seems perfectly written for the world today, our blind greedy stumble from thing to thing.”—Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
“Summer Cannibals is a story of domestic mayhem, where hidden angers spur tensions that manifest in the most unlikely ways. I was on the edge of my seat until the very end when, with the force of a tsunami, everything that’s been built comes crashing down, to devastating effect.” –Yasuko Thanh, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize-winning author of Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains
“There is a quality to Melanie Hobson’s writing that reminds me of Brideshead Revisited or certain John Cheever stories; a quality of languid lyricism and moral corruption that I found immediately arresting. The story of three sisters carrying out both subtle and shocking acts of deceit and desire (And oh, Pippa!) is something to be savored like a gin and tonic on a summer afternoon by the lake. But a storm is rolling in and the water, moments ago so inviting and glorious, begins to grow dark. Is it safe? Should you dive in? Summer Cannibals announces the arrival of a great talent that book clubs and reviewers alike will adore.”—Matt Bondurant, author of The Night Swimmer