Mr. Summer's Story Summary
by Patrick Suskind

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Mr. Summer’s Story

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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Although familiar to the villagers as an object in constant motion along the roads and paths in their immediate vicinity, Mr. Summer has remained an enigma to them since his arrival shortly after the end of World War II. The central structuring elements of the story consist of four episodes in which the inveterate wanderer crosses the path of the narrator, a boy growing up during the same years that Mr. Summer roams the local countryside. Each of these encounters marks a stage in the boy’s development from adolescence to maturity.

During the first of these encounters the narrator learns a lesson in human empathy, a lesson that teaches him to reject the empty adult explanations for Mr Summer’s behavior and to respect the old man’s own express desire to be left in peace. This lesson later provides the boy with the moral justification for his inaction when, in the final episode, he unwittingly becomes a witness to Mr. Summer’s suicide. The middle two episodes occur at critical points in the boy’s life, as if a benign fate had brought their paths together. Suffering from a disappointed first love and later from the world’s basic injustice, the boy is saved by Mr.Summer’s timely appearance in both cases.

Much of the most delightful narration of MR. SUMMER’S STORY occurs in preparation and anticipation of these encounters with the title figure. Exploring the world through the eyes of its youthful narrator, Suskind expertly captures the innocence and wisdom of his perspective in often humorous contrast to the jaded adult perspective. He gently reminds the reader of the enduring differences that exist between the generations in their attempts at comprehending the same reality.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXIX, March 1, 1993, p.1157.

Boston Globe. April 14, 1993, p.66.

Chicago Tribune. April 22, 1993, V, p.3.

Houston Post. April 18, 1993, p. C4.

Kirkus Reviews. LXI, January 1, 1993, p.21.

Library Journal. CXVIII, February 15, 1993, p.194.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, June 20, 1993, p.16.

The New Yorker. LXIX, May 10, 1993, p.113.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, January 11, 1993, p.52.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, March 7, 1993, p.11.