Book Review: Watercolor Summer

5 Jul

If Kathleen could relive any moment, it would be the one in 1969. Not because of its sweet memories, but because

it changed her life forever…

Just thirteen, Kathleen feels isolated and alienated by her family. A victim of her parents’ lack of connection to each other and to her, she is dragged by her mother to another artist colony for the summer. There she meets the annoying Malcolm, a sixteen-year-old, mentally-challenged boy living with his caregiver Jeanette. Malcolm tries to befriend Kat, but his very presence annoys her to her core. Kat overhears Jeanette recounting the circumstances surrounding Malcolm’s arrival and abandonment at the colony, and Kat lets the coolness inside her melt just a little. As her heart figuratively begins to melt, Malcolm’s real congenital heart problems become a concern and finally lead to tragedy.

In Watercolor Summer, Nan Allen tells the story of the difficult summer when Kathleen learned how Malcolm and his colorful guardian were the examples of true and selfless love. She paints a story on the canvas of Kathleen’s life which was transformed by the Master Artist-a life once stained by pain and trial, that became a thing of beauty.

A beach-loving child of the 60’s, Nan Corbitt Allen has written Watercolor Summer for people of all ages, but especially those who were children, teenagers, or young adults during that great decade. The reader will almost be able to smell the salt air, feel sand between his toes, and hear the sounds of Sly and the Family Stone playing in the background as the flashback story unfolds.

Over the past 25 years, Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections for mainline Christian music publishers. Most of these works were in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of over 35 years. The two started a Christian music and drama self-publishing company called Allenhouse Productions. The web-based company allows for the creation and publication of specialty products for the church and school.

A multiple Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed across the U.S. and around the world. Her first novel Asylum (2004, Moody Press) was the feature fiction selection for Crossings Book Club. Her first non-fiction book The Words We Sing (2010, Beacon Hill Press) is a refreshing look at words and phrases worshippers sing on Sundays but hardly use otherwise.

Nan is a native of Geneva, Alabama, and a graduate of The University of Alabama in Communication. She lives with her husband, Dennis, in the boondocks outside of Nashville, TN. They have two grown sons and perfect grandchildren.


My Impressions:

The summer of 1969 saw life-changing events — the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Woodstock music festival, and Hurricane Camille.  But for Kat Morton, the summer of ’69 was just another wasted summer; a summer spent at yet another artist colony with her free-spirited mother.  Kat is 13 and is a seemingly normal, self-consumed teenager determined to let everyone around her know she is not enjoying herself.  But Kat has never felt normal; has never felt like she fit in.  She doesn’t look like the other Morton cousins, her mother is an artist described by her friends as a hippie, and Kat is discovering her parent’s relationship is not and never was very normal.  Kat starts to grow up that summer spent at the Florida Gulf Coast.  Her relationship with Malcom, a 16 year old Down’s syndrome boy, brings her face to face with what real love, mercy and forgiveness look like.

Nan Corbitt Allen has written a moving and lyrical novel (she is a song writer and that is evident in her writing style).  The music that plays in the background and the visual images bring a wonderful depth to the story.  The short lesson on watercolors — the unforgiving nature of the medium and the need to incorporate mistakes or discard the whole — brings meaning to the entire book.  And, in one of the most influential characters, Malcolm, Allen displays the ability of the Master Artist to take a mistake and incorporate it to make life more beautiful and meaningful.

Watercolor Summer is a wonderful coming-of-age story; one I would recommend to older teens as well as adults.  You don’t want to miss this short, but deep novel.

Highly Recommended.

I will be sitting down with Nan Corbitt Allen next Monday at the International Christian Retail Show.  If you have any questions regarding her ministry, Watercolor Summer or her future projects, leave a comment and I will be sure to ask.

(I received a copy of Watercolor Summer from Bring It On! Communications in return for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.)


8 Responses to “Book Review: Watercolor Summer”

  1. Nan Corbitt Allen July 5, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Beckie, thanks so much for your favorable review of my book, Watercolor Summer. It was a joy to write. I got so involved with the characters myself I was sad when the writing was finished.

    I look forward to meeting you at ICRS.

    • rbclibrary July 5, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. I really loved the book. Look forward to meeting you too.

  2. Brenda July 5, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Sounds like a great story, to think about 1969 yikes I was only one year old. Will check this book out for sure.

    • rbclibrary July 6, 2011 at 6:27 am #

      I was a little older than that (9), so I remember Apollo 11, nothing about Woodstock or Camille though. My husband lived through Camille — he is from S. Miss. It was a great book, you need to check it out. A very quick read as well.

  3. Jay Reagan July 6, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Hey there Nan, I wasn’t alive in 1969. But from the reviews, this book sounds like one I would be interested in. When will you be in the Tallahassee area? I live in Tallahassee and have for a little over 2 years and would like to get a copy of the book and get your signature since you and Dennis used to teach me in choir years ago when I was just a little kid.

    • Nan Corbitt Allen July 10, 2011 at 9:08 am #

      Hi Jay.

      Don’t have any immediate plans to be in Tallahassee but I’ll let you know if something comes up. Great to hear from you!


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