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Summer in the City by Kevin Phelps

summer in the city

An impressive, memorable coming-of-age tale…

Set in 1966 in Chicago’s North Shore in a diverse, inexpensive neighborhood, Phelps’s nuanced coming-of-age tale uses some real-life situation and characters to tell the story of a teenager boy trying to find his own path in life. Estrangement from his father and long-unreliability of his alcoholic mother has forced Corey Mack to become self-reliant at an early age. At 14, he is already working as a delivery boy at a local pharmacy and looking to start second job in summer while his mostly-absent mother comes and goes. The life in the hard-edged neighborhood of Rogers Park is not easy, but books and his work keep him busy, and he likes the vibrant clan of European Jews and Irish people who occupy most of the neighborhood. Simple curiosity leads him to pay attention to one of his neighbors’ continuous typing in the apartment below, but an attempted break-in starts a chain of events that throws Corey in the path of a sinister mystery. Phelps excels at depicting utterly humane characters. He beautifully portrays Corey’s adolescent yearnings and his teenage aghast, astutely illustrating the subtle variations and manifestations of self-doubt. The best part of Phelps’s writing is his exploration of his protagonist’s innocent side, which despite the difficult circumstances stays intact. At once dreamy and dramatic, Phelps’s writing style beautifully gives soul to Corey’s story as he captures the tension and excitement of the young boy’s attraction to pretty girls and how he is shaped by the estrangement of his father and the long-unreliability of his mother. Marvin Schwab with his stern and yet sincere nature easily makes a place in readers’ hearts. While the particular asides on media excerpt can feel distracting (the momentum sort of flags in these lengthy sections), the luxurious, intelligent prose perfectly integrates these mini storylines into the narrative. The typed manuscripts that make up the backstory of Mr. Carnap are beautifully written, keeping the reader intrigued. The conflict in the plot not only comes from the sinister conspiracy that Corey finds himself entangled in but also from his teenage anxieties over sex, money, and identity issues, and Corey’s struggles to come of age, all the while fighting to discover his own path in a difficult environment are portrayed with conviction. Throughout, Phelps’s descriptive eye lends beauty and authenticity to this intricate tale. The fans of literary fiction will be greatly rewarded.


Summer in the City

By Kevin Phelps

Buy now

Pub date March 13, 2020

ISBN 9798632356701

Price $12.95 (USD) Paperback, $2.95 Kindle edition

2 thoughts on “Summer in the City by Kevin Phelps

  1. An impressive, memorable commentary for a debut author that both excites and humbles while making my day all the more pleasant. Maybe somebody ‘up there’ likes me after all.
    Kevin Phelps

    1. It was a wonderful book, Kevin.

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