Every Now and ThenEvery Now and Then by Lesley Kagen
Published by Crooked Lane Books on October 6, 2020
Pages: 248
View Title on Goodreads
Bantering Books Rating: three-half-stars

For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing and This Tender Land.
A heartfelt coming-of-age story about three young girls searching for adventure during the summer of 1960 from the New York Times bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark.
The summer of 1960 was the hottest ever for Summit, Wisconsin. For kids seeking relief from the heat, there was a creek to be swum in, sprinklers to run through, and ice cream at Whitcomb's Drugstore. But for Frankie, Viv, and Biz, eleven-year-old best friends, it would forever be remembered as the summer that evil paid a visit to their small town--and took their young lives as they'd known them as a souvenir.
With a to-do list in hand, the girls set forth from their hideout to make their mark on that summer, but when three patients escape from Broadhurst Mental Institution, their idyllic lives take a sinister turn. Determined to uncover long-held secrets, the girls have no idea that what they discover could cost them their lives and the ones they hold dear.
Six decades later, Biz remembers that long ago summer and how it still haunts her and her lifelong friends in Every Now and Then. A story about ties that bind forever, the timelessness of guilt and grief, and the everlasting hope for redemption.

Bantering Books Review

3.5 stars

The 1960s fascinate me. The music, the art, the clothing. The peace and love vibe. To me, it always seems like it would have been a fun time to be young, wild, and free.

But then I think about how the decade is also one of the most tumultuous and pivotal in American history. For alongside the peace and love of the era, there was great social unrest and racial divisiveness. And I wonder what it was really like to be alive back then and experience it all.

Sadly, I realize that it may not have been so different from what we’re facing today.

And I wish I could write, “Just look how far we’ve come.” But I can’t. Not yet. There is still too much work to be done.

I have faith that one day, however, I will write those exact words . . . and proudly smile as I do so because they will finally be true.

Wow. My intro took a heavy turn. I didn’t really plan to go where the words ended up taking me, but so be it. I think I will leave it. It comes from my heart and speaks my inner truth.

Now, on to the book and back to the 1960s. It’s the real reason I am here, after all.

In her latest novel, Every Now and Then, Lesley Kagen rewinds time and gives us an authentic glimpse of what life was truly like in the summer of 1960, as seen through the eyes of three young girls growing up in Summit, Wisconsin.

Frankie, Viv, and Biz, all eleven years-old, have been the best of friends for as long as they can remember. Having made their to-do list for the summer, they are thrilled to begin seeking out one adventure after the next. With visions of swimming, ice cream, and Fourth of July celebrations dancing in their heads, the threesome knows that a summer to always remember is ahead of them.

Unbeknownst to the girls, though, their picture-perfect summer is about to turn stormy when three patients from a local mental institution break free. Upon the patients’ escape, an evil enters the town of Summit, and the childhood innocence of the three friends will be stolen away, never to return.

First and foremost, I would like to begin this review by strongly emphasizing that Every Now and Then is an enjoyable, heartfelt read. It is a lovely, often humorous, coming-of-age tale of the three girls, and Frankie, Viv, and Biz are delightfully endearing. The dynamics of their friendship are complex and tightly woven, and it is a joy to observe the girls’ interactions and love for one another.

Also, Kagen does a nice job of evoking 1960s small-town America. Summit almost feels like a character in and of itself, living and breathing. Whitcomb’s Drugstore, the Rivoli Theatre, Mud Town, and Earl’s Club are all vividly created on the page, instilling a strong sense of time and place.

But Every Now and Then isn’t just the story of Frankie, Viv, and Biz’s friendship and their coming of age. The novel tackles racism, mental illness, and homophobia. Familial relationships, a bit of light romance, and a central mystery are thrown in for good measure as well.

There are also many, many characters to learn and keep straight. Tracking who is who is at times a bit confusing.

And the unfortunate result of all this is a bit of a messy, cluttered narrative. The novel constantly bounces around from plot thread to plot thread, never digging deeply enough into any aspect of the story. Kagen has taken on too much, I believe, and she is unable to give all the various strands of the narrative the full attention that is deserved.

Furthermore, Kagen’s writing is a little rough around the edges, with long, sometimes awkwardly-worded sentences. I often would get lost and lose my place mid-sentence, having to then go back to the beginning to start over and read again.

Plainly put, the novel has too much happening in it. There are far too many balls in the air. Too many characters. Too many lengthy, convoluted sentences. And I think in this case, a lot less would have made for a lot more.

On the whole, however, Every Now and Then is still a very compelling and pleasantly heartwarming read. I happily award it three solid stars, with an extra half-star for the simple fact that I enjoyed the novel immensely.

My sincerest appreciation to Crooked Lane Books and Edelweiss+ for the Advance Review Copy. All opinions included herein are my own.