The Gypsy Moth Summer

The Gypsy Moth Summer

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Click here for a reader’s guide to The Gypsy Moth Summer with sample questions (by yours truly) to spur a thought-provoking conversation for your book club/reading group.

Refinery 29: Best Beach Reads of 2017
Departures Magazine: “Legit Lit” Best Beach Read
New York TimesIn Three New Novels, Summer Escapes Prove Illusory
BUSTLE: 9 Books About The Summer That Changed Everything
Martha Stewart Magazine: Summer’s Best Books
Real Simple: 5 Books That Won’t Disappoint
Coastal Living: 50 Best Books for the Beach
BBC: Ten Books To Read in June
Southern Living: These Are the Books Your Friends Are Reading This Summer
Pop Sugar: Summer’s Best New Beach Reads
Bustle: Best Books Out In June
Chicago Review Books: 13 Books You Should Read in June
• Vol.1 Brooklyn: June 2017 Book Preview
Bustle: 29 New Fiction Books To Read This Summer
Nylon Magazine: Summer Reading Roundup
Read it Forward: Six Picks for Summer Reads
The Huffington Post: 2017 Book Preview: 33 Titles To Add To Your Shelf
• The Millions: The Great 2017 Book Preview
• The Week: 28 Books To Read In 2017

It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island- crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island’s leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.

It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall—only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family—returns to live in “The Castle,” the island’s grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.

Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island’s bread-and-butter. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island.

Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders; a plotting aged matriarch, a demented military patriarch; and a troubled young boy, The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families; among friends; between neighbors and entire generations.


“The Gypsy Moth Summer plunges the reader into a hazy, hot daydream of hidden truth, scandal, and racial prejudice. With bold strokes, Julia Fierro creates a vivid world where privilege and class are merely a veneer to distract from the cracks beneath the surface.”
– Jodi Picoult, NYT bestselling author of Small Great Things and Leaving Time

“In her hugely engaging novel, The Gypsy Moth Summer, Julia Fierro brings a light touch to bear on the most important subjects: social class, race, family, generational conflict, anger and forgiveness. It is a sterling example of how fiction can entertain us and at the same time inspire us to think about the things we urgently need to consider, now more than ever.”
Francine Prose, National Book Award finalist and bestselling author of Reading Like A Writer and Mister Monkey

“The Gypsy Moth Summer shakes and stirs family saga and summer romance upside down. The irresistible story-telling brings to life each character and Fierro doesn’t just observe, she knows. Like all great novelists, she gives us the world.”
Amy Bloom, bestselling author of novels Away and Lucky Us

“The novel’s depictions of Maddie’s anxious relationship with her family hit hard, giving the narrative a savage momentum.” — The New York Times, June 2017

“Fierro is a writer capable of glorious sentences. She recalls with fastidious care the songs and lip gloss and fashions of the early 1990s, has an ear for weather and landscape, and moves her story briskly through its many cohering parts. Avalon is far from a hospitable place. Its inhabitants, monied or not, are often vulgar. Excess is its own devastation; excess is tragedy. Too much of too much — cash, sex, greed, bugs — rarely does end well.” – Chicago Tribune review: Julia Fierro’s ‘The Gypsy Moth Summer’ echoes ‘Gatsby’, June 2017

“One of the best things about this novel is how vividly Julia Fierro paints the setting (an islet called Avalon off the coast of Long Island) and the time period (summer of 1992; you can smell the Love’s Baby Soft and taste the Lip Smackers). Avalon could be an idyll, but this summer, it’s not. First off, there’s a gypsy moth infestation that’s causing insects to rain down like a biblical plague. All you have to do is listen and you’ll hear them chewing their way through the precious tree canopy; all you have to do is look up and a gummy caterpillar is likely to plop onto your forehead. The infestation is the perfect backdrop for a story that is complex, relevant and a delight to read. Racism, classism, bigotry, abortion, domestic abuse, business ethics (or lack thereof), terminal illness, marital strife – it might sound like too much but it turns out to be just enough and this novel ultimately becomes one about the power those we love and trust have to destroy us, slowly at first and then in unstoppable waves (like a biblical plague) but also the restorative, strengthening power of love meant to last. The world is full of both kinds and, Fierro’s writing suggests, you’ll never quite know until you’re in the thick of it which kind of love you’ve got. But don’t stop living, even with the threats. There’s beauty in everything.” – The Globe and Mail, June 2017

“[Fierro] succeeds in creating a suspenseful, richly symbolic drama and coming-of-age story. Poignant, raw, and, at times, brutally honest about the poison concealed behind the charming facade of a quaint community, this is an intense and meaningful read.”
– Booklist *Starred Review*

“Riveting…a powerful story showcasing a dizzying spectrum of relationships from the deeply destructive to the supportive and loving.” – Publishers Weekly 

“Great for book club… With vivid imagery, Julia Fierro immerses readers in this fractured world and the irreversible consequences of the daughter’s return.” – Real Simple

“Young love, the consequences of prejudice, and an infestation of gypsy moths all have their parts to play in this soaring novel.” – BUSTLE

“Love, race, and classism collide in this vibrant summer read.”- LENNY

“A luminous second novel, Fierro laces her lyrical tale of revenge and rebellion with gritty details, mythic settings and a nuanced sense of how class and racial divisions shape us.”
– BBC 

“Fierro’s storytelling masterfully unravels the complexities of generational gaps by presenting perspectives from an array of characters..a gripping narrative that touches on important issues.” – NYLON Magazine 

“Revel in Fierro’s crisp prose…this lofty, absorbing worksof fiction will leave you feeling wiser and inspired”. – Coastal Living 

“Julia Fierro’s marvelous THE GYPSY MOTH SUMMER is a novel to slowly savor, settling in with her characters as you would old friends, cherishing every sentence, every turn of plot. Rarely does one encounter a novel this entertaining, which also speaks to the complicated truths about race and class at the heart of our country’s tangled history.”
– Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year

“The Gypsy Moth Summer gathers all of life in its wonderfully confident reach: the buzzing energy of youth, the fraught hope of adulthood, the remorseless clarity of old age. Fierro’s thoroughly entertaining storytelling doesn’t prevent her from taking on weighty subjects like race and class in America or delivering a rebuke of the lives of privilege that she chronicles with such anthropological accuracy. We are deeply invested in these characters around whom an air of tragic destiny hangs, and the pages fly by as the book hurtles toward its devastating conclusion.”
Matthew Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

“The Gypsy Moth Summer’s 1992 island world is real and alive—you can feel the longing, the brush of moth wings, and the simmering danger of a multiracial family disrupting a white conservative island. Masterpiece is often a word that is casually tossed around, but it fits Fierro’s work, which is so richly alive, so poetic, it is truly Shakespearean tragedy. I had a sense of wonder that someone could craft a novel as perfect as this one, but then I remembered this is a Julia Fierro novel—and she did.”
Caroline Leavitt, author of the bestselling novels Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow, and Cruel Beautiful World

“Julia Fierro’s second book is a luminous, urgent novel about the forces that shape us all: where we grow up; whether we are loved by our parents or understood by our peers; how class, power, and money may cast our fates. With gathering awe, I found in Avalon Island’s richly depicted society a microcosm of our own. I rooted for the lovers at the thrumming heart of The Gypsy Moth Summer with the hungry turn of every page.”
– Sophie McManus, author of The Unfortunates

“The Gypsy Moth Summer is a deeply satisfying tale of family, first love, and home. The world of Avalon Island is lush, inviting, and deeply complicated, full of the same contradictions that we grapple with day to day. It’s a meditation on what makes a community and a reminder that the past is never past and home is a place that is both beautiful and heartbreaking.”
Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman

“Julia Fierro weaves a riveting, tragic novel of place from an Island’s unspoken past. Vividly drawn characters and startling scenes of joy, confrontation and regret are set against the surreal background of Gypsy Moths devouring trees, Clinton-era racial tensions, a deeply ingrained military industrial complex, and the conflicted societal and familial need to belong at all costs. Fierro’s masterful second novel draws us close, makes us its confidante, and then delivers hard and violent truths about the Island’s legacy of denial.”
Scott Blackwood, author of PEN USA 2016 award winning novel, See How Small

“Right out of the gate, Fierro’s writing is taut and engaging, and the summer she invites us into is full of the tension, confusion and unease of youth. Add the complexities of race, class division, illness and first love and you have a propelling narrative that becomes vibrant and alive at Fierro’s hand. This Long Island girl was hooked from the start.”
– Christine Onorati, Owner, WORD Bookstores, NYC

“What a wild and unexpected ride is Gypsy Moth Summer. A good storyteller, Fierro gets the 1990s—from teen debauchery to the Republican establishment’s horrified response to the Clinton administration. What begins as a romping peek into the inner lives of regular people becomes an ominous and riveting treatise on our culture’s issues of race and class.”
– Mia Wigmore, Bookseller, Diesel Brentwood

“I didn’t just read Julia Fierro’s The Gypsy Moth Summer, I devoured it. I stepped into the alluring yet fractured world of Avalon Island in the beautifully retro year of 1992 on page one, and its chorus of characters, with their secrets and jealousies and fears, held me hostage until the very last page. The dual presences of Grudder Aviation, the airplane juggernaut that dominates the economy and social life of the island, and the gypsy moth caterpillars, strange and ominous yet also beautiful as they invade, loom over the story of this town deeply divided by class and race. Adolescent Maddie, uncomfortable with the popular girls yet drifting from her family, is at the center of the swirl of characters whose stories are set into motion by the return of the town’s prodigal daughter. Tensions lurking below hiss to the surface, boundaries are crossed, secrets exposed. This novel positively pulses with life. I loved every thrilling moment.”
– Mary Cotton, Owner and Bookseller, Newtonville Books, Newton, MA

“The Gypsy Moth Summer places Julia Fierro firmly in the realm of writers like Larry Brown, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Ann Pancake — a writer so capable of evoking a time and a place that there is little else to say on the matter. In page after page, she develops a deep, immersed sense of this strange island. Her prose, always measured, deft, and distinctly beautiful, wreaths an ornate and fascinating story, laureating her the unquestioned voice of Mid-Atlantic suburbia in the 1990s. The Gypsy Moth Summer is a fairy tale reminiscent, decidedly and determinedly so, not of the ilk of The Great Gatsby, but of Midsummer Night’s Dream, one where the thickness of the humidity, the plague of caterpillars, and the lust of adolescence (and the unspoken, dizzy lust of a country), concatenate into a circus where love, danger, and identity are always a question looming and never answered. Nothing is certain, except that this is a place I don’t want to leave.”
– Andrew Unger, Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA

“I can’t stop thinking about the characters of this novel. Told from several different points of view, The Gypsy Moth Summer is the story of summer 1992 on Avalon Island. From the gorgeously written prologue this book held me hypnotized with superb writing and a cast of characters that are all fascinating in their own way.”
– Rick Sayre, Barnes & Noble UES, NYC