Windchill Summer

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Cherry peels onions in a pickle plant. It has her gasping for air. The oppressive atmosphere, however, fails to oppress her spirit. It is just a job, after all, and she simply cannot take her ornery boss very seriously. Her father is a deacon in the First Apostolic Holiness Church of God, which forbids drinking, dancing, shorts, swimming suits, and even sleeveless dresses. But even what is supposed to be her load of sin does not slow Cherry down. There is a Huckleberry Finn quality in her prose, an ebullient attachment to life itself that no dogma can destroy.

Indeed, when the walking cliche of a handsome stranger comes to town she decides—like Huck Finn— that she will go to hell. But what Cherry learns by breaking the rules is that most people have their dirty little secrets. She comes of age by finding her own voice and telling her story.

Windchill Summer is an auspicious debut. Norris Church Mailer does not take her work too seriously and consequently has produced a deft, light comic novel. At the same time, she does a fine job of evoking the rollicking side of the 1960’s, which makes her book something of a social document of small town life.

The book is dedicated to her husband, the novelist Norman Mailer, and to her two Sons by him. Her style, however, is all her own. For devotees of Norman Mailer's biography, there are episodes that are reminiscent of Church's life with him—which is perhaps why she finds it necessary to emphasize “this is a work of fiction” based on “real-life experiences, research, and imagination.”