Retired history professor Abe Aronson is a cranky, solitary man living out his autumn years on Gardner Island, a ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle. One rainy February night, while dining at a favorite local haunt, Abe and his girlfriend Joanna meet an engaging enigmatic waitress, new in town and without a place of her own. Fascinated and moved by the girl's plight, Joanna invites her to stay in Abe's garage. It seems everyone falls for the charming and invigorating the waitress, but she is much more than she appears, and an ancient covenant made a millennium ago threatens to disrupt the spring and alter the lives of Abe, Joanna, and all those around them forever...
Pleasure is the only thing the gods don't charge for - they can't, they love it too much themselves.
There's no shortage of books that are modern retellings of old myths and legends. Summerlong is another one. With the small difference that it's not about the heroes of the myth. It's about the ordinary people they meet. And whose lives they screw up while they relive an age-old story. Now doesn't that sound cheerful?
It is hard to say much more about the book without spoiling too much. I needed to read more than half of it before I could even answer the question 'So what is this book about?' Before that...well things happened but I had no idea why or how those things were connected. But while in most other books, I would have yelled 'Just come to the point already' but Beagle has a way of writing that made me not care about the fact that I had no clue what was going on. (I was reminded of another book of his: The Innkeeper's Song which is also not exactly fast-paced and tight-packed with plot but Summerlong is even more extreme). It's not a book that can be easily shelved into any genre (Fantasy? Urban Fantasy? A love story? Magical realism?) and it's not going to appeal to you if you are looking for anything that fits easily in any of those categories.
It's also not a happy book (but not one without hope either). But it's still a very very beautiful one.