Sweaty, blistering, and more than a little bit queer, Lee Mandelo’s debut is Southern gothic for a new audience. “Summer Sons” is an exploration of masculinity and repression, the darkness of academia, and generational trauma; a number of heavy themes that Mandelo explores with nuance and expertise. A novel perfect for people who love the atmosphere of a Flannery O’Connor short story and wish Maggie Stiefvater’s “Raven Cycle” quartet had more car chases and bad choices.
Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.
As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers to possess him.