|Gwyn Sinclair is a widow with a five-year-old son, Chris, who is smart for his age and now obsessed with the movie The Day After Tomorrow. This is the movie starting Dennis Quaid about the sudden ice age due to global warming. The premise of A Different Kind of Summer is that this child is so concerned that he is almost frantic with worry. Gwyn wants to reassure her child, so she takes him to a museum where they meet climatologist David Bretton. David promptly attracts her, but also informs her son that his fears are warranted…oops, wrong answer!
So Chris is upset and spends his time painting murals with a red sun destroying the planet and worrying that every storm will be the last one. Gwyn spends her time working as a nurse’s aide at the hospital, trying to raise Chris and trying to figure out how to help this very young child cope. David, who is also attracted to Gwyn, is determined to show Gwyn that she cannot live in the fantasy that the world will stay the same, while recognizing the need to educate Chris to help him cope.
Gwyn and David meet several times and David convinces Gwyn to allow Chris to attend a camp at the museum, which will teach him what he needs to know to not be scared. Gwyn agrees reluctantly. Now David just needs to convince Gwyn to date him. Adding to the mix is the fact that Gwyn has never fully recovered from her husband Duncan’s death in Afghanistan just before Chris was born.
Secondary characters abound including Gwyn’s close friend and neighbor Iris and her 12-year old daughter Molly. David’s family is also central to various parts of the tale. They include his parents, Richard and Miranda, and his older brother Sam, who is home on leave from the war. His sister Sara is in and out, giving Gwyn food for thought.
Set in Manitoba, Canada, the tale brings with it a bit of a lesson on global warming and the changing climate. The prevailing issue of how much is science and how much is just dooms day forecasting is a major conflict between “I’d rather be oblivious” Gwyn and “Everyone has to get it and help fix it” David. The first three or more times they meet and try to date ends up in arguments about the issue. This is the theme throughout the story as they try to decide if they can enter into a relationship.
While I enjoyed the story, I didn’t really like either Gwyn or David, making it hard to be fully invested in a relatively lackadaisical romance. They only kiss a few times and when they finally let themselves go, it is only alluded to in no detail. If you weren’t paying attention, you might almost miss the scene of passion…it is that short and completely unexpected.
Gwyn is an optimist at work, which comes in handy when helping her patients. But with Chris, she struggles with his feelings and this makes her seem unsympathetic at times. David on the other hand, is often annoying because he is the opposite extreme. He is so obsessed with the climate that he allowed it to ruin his first marriage. There is not a good indication that he will change for Gwyn any time soon, despite his family harping that he needs to put something more in his life.
Todd is a good writer and keeps the pacing even. I was engaged due to the storyline, even while I was not thrilled with either of the main characters and the slight sense that I was learning way more than I wanted to know. Chris is written as an old five year old, with no real reason given that he is so advanced for his age.
Overall, A Different Kind of Summer is a different kind of story. It is intriguing but not really a solid romance if that is the primary reason for reading.