As in many of Lowry’s later works, A Summer to Die deals with the joys and pains that come from memories and treats characters who are initiated into a world in which they experience grief and loss. While the novel deals with a serious subject, a family coping with the death of one of its members, the book is not depressing. The book’s hopeful tone is attributable to Meg’s close relationship with her parents, her friendships with kind and nurturing adults outside her immediate family, and her own personal growth. In addition, Meg’s feelings and her family are portrayed in a believable way, probably because parts of the novel, especially Meg and Molly’s relationship, are autobiographical.
Lowry introduces one of the novel’s important topics, memory, through a patchwork quilt that Meg’s mother is making from pieces taken from the family’s old clothes. For Meg and Molly, the quilt reminds them of some unpleasant memories that Meg suggests are better off forgotten because enough time has not elapsed. Her parents share a similar attitude when they refuse to consider renting the same house the next summer because it reminds them of Molly’s illness and death. As time passes, however, Molly is able to keep her sister alive through the memories that are prompted, in part, by the photographs that she and Will have been taking. At the end of the novel, Meg is able to “see” her sister standing in the grass with her arms full of flowers and remarks that somewhere it will always be summer for Molly.
Perhaps even more important is the novel’s exploration of the relationship between Meg and Molly, as well as Meg’s subsequent grief and sense of loss. Meg’s jealousy of Molly derives, at least in part, from her own sense of inadequacy. Everything seems to come easily to Molly, who is pretty, popular, and neat. Through the course of the novel, Meg gradually realizes her own talents, particularly her abilities as an artist and photographer. She is able to teach Will how to take photographs and show Molly how to improve the brides that she likes to draw....
(The entire section is 565 words.)