Summer Cannibals by Melanie HobsonSummer Cannibals by Melanie Hobson

Summer Cannibals

byMelanie Hobson

Paperback | August 21, 2018

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A bold and gripping literary debut about three very different sisters who return to their family home to face imminent tragedy and 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, George, 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 are their parents, with unquenchable desires and cravings of their own.
     As the affluent family endures four 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 dazzling new voice in Canadian fiction.
MELANIE HOBSON holds a BA Honours in Classical Studies from McMaster University, was a Michener Fellow in the MFA at the University of Miami, and a Kingsbury Fellow in the PhD Program at Florida State University. She now lives in Florida with her husband and two children. Summer Cannibals is her first novel.
Title:Summer CannibalsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 8.2 × 5.8 × 0.8 inPublished:August 21, 2018Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0670068357

ISBN - 13:9780670068357

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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boring... I missed the boat on this one by a million miles. I'm sure some people will say there is a lot to get out of Summer Cannibals. They will tell you the genius of Melanie Hobson's novel is her use of literary devices, comparisons, allegories, etc. But here's the thing; that only works if the story is remains interesting. Realistic The one thing that Summer Cannibals does have is realism. These are real people, and yes they exist. Whether you find them shallow, snobby, or otherwise abhorrent; the reality is that there are lots and lots of people out there like this. People who are just not happy; even though they have a lot of money, stuff, family, etc. These are hard people to feel bad for at the end of the day. Now, before we knock these people, I think it's worth taking a look around you, a serious look, and determining if you have most of those things too. Probably most of us do and yet still believe in our right to complain. And I think you can complain about anything you like. Whether I will be your audience or not is an entirely different conversation. And with Summer Cannibals I wish I had disengaged from the conversation sooner. The Characters I didn't like anyone in this story. Except maybe the unborn child; because at least it didn't demand anything, yell, cry or feel bad for itself (so far as know, lol). This is the hardest part of Summer Cannibals is there is very little I could find that made any of the characters even moderately appealing people. Flawed characters can still be solid and loved by your reader; just because you have an imperfect character doesn't mean they are always a monster. Hobson missed making a connection with me as the reader and I think will miss the mark for most with her selfish family. The Twist Yes there is a twist. Is it shocking? I dunno... I wasn't too surprised by the events. I was a little surprised by the outcome. But mostly by the time I got to the twist I was just thankful that meant the book was only a few pages away from being over... Overall Maybe it's because I just recently watched the incredibly well done family dynamics in NetFlix's Haunting of Hill House, or maybe it's because I wanted the people in Summer Cannibals to find a small spark of good in each other; either way it was a disappointment to feel so disconnected from this story and it's characters. I'm sure there is some literary magic here (that is boring) that I'm missing. If that's the case I'm okay with not getting it; because if getting it makes me as snobby and insufferable as the characters in Summer Cannibals then I don't want to get it. PS: There are no actual cannibals in this book. Disappointing right? (lol) Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Date published: 2018-12-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Family Drama -- Just not the novel for me. This book was extremely hard for me to complete. I picked this novel up several times over the Summer, and each time I was struggling to continue. Today, I decided to bite the bullet and just finish it as I was only like 30-pages into it from before. This novel was very hard for me to rate. I think the writing was great, and really I would indulge in another novel by this author. However, I found this novel just not for me. The characters were unlikeable, all of them. Which, I can get behind because in life you're not going to like everyone and so I take the same approach with novels. However, not one of them had a redeemable quality. Everyone was entitled and believed they were owed the world and could hurt people to get what they deserved. The father was disgusting, the mother was a whack-job. These characters definitely all need some help. I thought I would really enjoy this novel because I am from a small town in Northern Ontario, where a Steel mill is the main industry as it is in Hamilton. However, that is where the similarities ended. My one positive take away from this novel was the garden, and how the flowers could be seen as their own character and life-force. So I guess I connected most with the garden. Definitely not the novel for me unfortunately.
Date published: 2018-10-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I didn't care for this book at all This book had all of the elements required and a solid foundation to become a great story, however in my opinion, it fell very short. I felt no connection with any of the characters , which was unfortunate because for the entire story, I did not care for them, nor did I care for anything that happened to them, or what they were going through. It felt like I was just waiting for something interesting or groundbreaking to happen that would make what I had already read through worth the read and my time, but nothing really happened. What did happen at the climax of the story, again, I did not care about because I did not care about the characters or the situations they were in. You're not always going to relate to characters, that's why books and stories are fun to read and easy to get lost in, because it is a world unlike your own, but this story was just not for me. Its kind of set up in a way that gets you to think that maybe something sinister might happen, or a great revelation unveils itself about this strange family, but it doesn't. Its just a story of two parents and their three daughters who honestly don't go through anything unbelievable or much different than your average person in their day to day life. Some (arguably most, if not all) of the characters crave a more exciting, unconventional sex life, or have regrets about getting married and having children, etc. Its not that farfetched. Risque things happen which is a bit exciting but not worth reading the entire book for. The writing is absolutely beautiful and vivid, and the way the author describes the scenery and mannerisms of the characters is certainly impressive, but that didn't change the fact that I didn't care about the story being told.
Date published: 2018-09-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A story about a broken family This is Melanie Hobson's first novel. This story is about a broken family, broken hearts, broken vows, broken flowers, and a broken window. Three sisters come back to their childhood home in Hamilton, Ontario due to a family crisis. One sister is pregnant and suffers from pre-natal depression. She comes home in hope to get away from her husband and find family support. One sister takes advantage of the crisis to come home to help and get away from her routine. One sister comes back home to see if she can rekindle a teenage flame. The parents are strange and their story is even more strange. This book had great elements to become a solid story. The relationship between the three sisters is very interesting and I wish the author would have expanded further on that aspect and spend less time on the parents' story. Melanie Hobson's writing is great and I am looking forward to seeing more books from this author.
Date published: 2018-09-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Family in crisis If I had to label Summer Cannibals, I would probably classify it as a family drama about a family in crisis. David and Margaret Blackford's mansion is on the shores of Lake Ontario. They have summoned their three adult daughters (George, Jax, Pippa) to spend a four day weekend at their family home. Each daughter comes with her own emotional baggage, which is nothing compared to the parents' outlook on life. The word cannibal very well describes these people. It was difficult to spend time reading about such an unlikeable, intense, unpleasant family. Each member seems to have little regard for the others. The development of the plot is slow and becomes more and more unrealistic. However, Melanie Hobson writes beautifully: her prose is descriptive and poetic. The cover is a work of art. This is a first novel for Melanie Hobson and I look forward to reading future books by her. Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Date published: 2018-09-03

Read from the Book

1 The house had its way of holding them. Their father liked to tell how he’d bought it with a credit card—a cash advance to make up the ten percent needed for the deposit—and it seemed as equally and gloriously ridiculous, that this should all be theirs. That first day, after the papers were signed, the sisters had run laughing and shrieking through the house with its three floors, two staircases, seven bedrooms and all the rest— living, dining, family, library, kitchen, butler’s pantry, bath- rooms, hallways, passageways and entryways. They explored and claimed rooms and then just as quickly relinquished them as they found another and another, shouting that they were lost, crying out that they’d found “the best thing ever,” bare feet thud- ding up and down, up and down, across and over. Doors slammed. Drawers were pulled open and locks fiddled with. The old laundry chute was discovered and heads were put through the small doors on each landing that let into it as they prodded each other, but none of them were brave enough to go to the chute’s terminus in the basement. That rough stonewalled basement the original builders had dynamited from the solid limestone of the escarpment the house was perched on. Beyond the house’s walls, at the base of that cliff, was the city—gridded to the enormous lake like a mesh to keep the jutting land, and all it supported, from tumbling down.      I can’t hear the children, their father had said, looking at his wife triumphantly. This house swallows them.      They were leaning on the metal fence at the cliff’s edge, the whole world spread out in front of them, and anyone would think these parents too young to have all this. That something was wrong; a mistake. But they knew that this was nothing less than what they deserved: the five acres of parkland which they would turn into exquisite gardens to surround the grand house with a landscape to match it in size and manner—this had always been owed to them. They were a couple whom people referred to as ‘handsome’ and it suited them because they resonated good breeding and all that went with it: high birth, property, education, bloodlines you could trace back to royalty. They were handsome and they knew it to be true, and theirs was a world that rewarded such things. David and Margaret Blackford were exactly where they were meant to be—at the dead end of a private lane you could drive by without noticing because the newer, smaller houses of the neighbourhood acted like a palisade of brick and mortar to keep the riff-raff out. The lane’s three big houses were dealt in along the cliff’s edge, a vestige from a time when it had all been fields and the founding families of that region had built their houses on the escarpment’s very brow. This view had always been worth braving the winter gales that howled up off the lake and even then, in the early century, the occupants knew the defensible value of a horizon.      At the lane’s entrance, where it met the ordinary street, was a bulging masonry wall behind which was a cloistered convent: a rundown mysterious place their father forbade them from entering. Even the name of the convent terrified: Sisters of the Precious Blood. Their father, who rarely noticed what his girls whispered about and even more rarely took an interest in it, had—with that single restriction—made the place irresistible. In the years to come, one of the nuns would take daily walks up and down the lane from the convent to the family’s driveway and back again, having taken a vow of silence and contemplation. And the girls would tempt her, with their father’s encouragement, because he saw the nun’s appearance at his property line for what it was: a trespass. They would lounge near the gate on their bicycles and then speed out to intercept, shouting hellos, riding circles, going no-hands, skidding their tires, trying to get her to respond. Doing everything short of touching her as she walked in an eddy of robes like a villain from a comic book, her presence making the vampire crypts and legions of undead seem more likely than ever. And when the sun would go down the girls would scramble to shut their bedroom windows, even on the hottest nights, afraid she’d come for them. As if she were the greatest threat to their security, their little paradise. The only person they had to fear.      Their driveway, where the nun turned, was defined by two stone pillars which were knocked over regularly by the garbage truck and snowplow. The drivers piled the wreckage back up at new and eccentric angles in a sneering indictment of this fancy house with its crude gateposts that deserved to be bulldozed because maybe then the rich bastards would put up something appropriate, like electric gates with a keypad to come and go. A code they’d have to be trusted with. It was only the cases of beer at Christmastime—put out on the porch steps to freeze overnight—that stopped them from leaving the blocks where they fell. Instead of a metal gate, the girls’ father used an old sawhorse to block the property’s entrance from the regular snoopers who liked to just barely roll their cars along the lane and down the long drive as though this were their right—to take in the acres of gardens and the orchestrated countryside at a crawl, stopping to exclaim over new blooms or a shrub’s lush foliage when their selfsame shrub back at their modest home was still bare. As if that was treason. Just another betrayal to add to their list of grievances against these upstarts who took and kept everything for themselves. The gawkers would stop at the house and look around contemptuously before turning to inch back out, trawling for every shred of evidence to justify their position that here, without question, was the rot underpinning the nation’s decay.      The girls’ father believed that the simple wooden sawhorse he placed at the gate, with his own hands, was a denial of that judgment that wealth begat indolence because there was something practical and self-reliant about that barrier. And it fit perfectly, he would say, with the Georgian style of the house which echoed gentle country living and turnstiles, fox hunts and steeplechases, noblesse oblige, even though (their mother would remark) this was Hamilton, Canada—a town founded in the monstrous flick- ering shadows of the steel mills on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. A place where at night, deep in the east end, you could see the climbing flames firing the stack that spewed soot onto the narrow red brick houses in the adjacent streets, coating them, Blakean. This was Hamilton, a workers’ town.      They were sisters: Georgina, Jacqueline and Philippa. Adults now, and with families of their own, but the youngest, Pippa, was sick. Eight months pregnant with her fifth, she’d left her hus-band and four children in New Zealand and was coming here. The others were coming home too. More than three decades had passed since they’d run through the house on that first day, and there’d been days—too many to count—when the house had sat hard and unloved within its ruffle of green grass and hedge and flower. When the sky was dull and grey and the windows reflected bleakness, all flat and giving nothing back, and it seemed a place of such uncompromising severity that its stone walls would let nothing in or out. And then some mornings, it would rise with the sun and display the warmth inherent in its blocks and the glass would gleam and the garden, that lush profusion, would reflect inward to the rooms and fill the house with life. Figures would move from window to window as though it were a dance and they partnered with the air. And it was on those days that the world was right and days were measured in increments of joy. It was all there was and would ever be. It was family.

Editorial Reviews

“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 “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 “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 and The Wettest County in the World“Summer Cannibals feels decidedly feminist. Hobson provides the perspectives of the women, each of whom struggles to survive despite old wounds… Men’s insatiable appetites – for sex, for glory, for control – and the resulting destruction of the women around them are showcased so brilliantly and intimately.” —Quill & Quire