Book Review: Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons


This book is so far outside of my normal reading realm it’s not even funny.  Never in a million years would I have picked up this book if I’d just strolled into a bookstore.  Again, I can’t say enough about buying random books at garage sale.  I just love it!  I find some of the most obscure, wonderful hidden gems out there. 

Here’s a quote that totally sums up this book for me:  This is an example of how a good novel can become magnificent when it is beautifully told.  (Publishers Weekly, as found on the Barnes & Noble website)

The reviewer at Publishers Weekly is right.  Siddons has an amazing gift for imagery.  I’ve never been to Maine, or anywhere on the Northeast coast at all, and yet I felt as though I was right there.  She beautifully describes the scene without making you feel as though you’re reading a thesaurus.  It’s just amazing.  I’m not sure if I wanted to visit Maine in the summer before I read this book but I absolutely want to now. 

There’s also a personal draw to me in this book.  Lilly (the main character) finds peace in the water through competitive swimming.  Seeing as how I spent the better part of sixteen years in the water I can completely relate.  There’s a sense of peace there for me.  In fact, there’s nothing more relaxing to me than going for a swim.  Also, Lilly talks to her cat.  I talk to our pup all the time so I’m glad to know I’m not the only crazy person out there. 

This is a perfect summer read in my opinion.  It’s beautiful and you’ll just want to get completely lost in the pages. 

Here’s the synopsis from Barnes & Noble:

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly—happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story does…in loss. After Cam’s death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam’s favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance. There, she looks hard to her past—to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety— to try to figure out her future.

It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

Are you ready for the best damn summer of your life? ~ Pat Finley in Heavyweights

Do you have kids?  I don’t but with school ending in my school district it got me thinking…. What do all you people with kids do when summer gets here?  Nowadays most families consist of two working parents, so it’s doubtful that one parent is taking a three month vacation to stay home with their kiddos (unless, of course, that parent happens to be a teacher).  I’m sure that there are lots of daycare-type schools that take school age children during the summer and of course, there’s always hiring a private sitter/nanny for the summer as well. 

As a child, there were two things that I loved most about summer… the pool was finally open and… SUMMER CAMP!  I honestly couldn’t tell you how old I was the first time that I went to summer camp but what I can tell you is that I absolutely loved it.  I didn’t have any fear or apprehension of being away from my parents for an entire week.  I was THRILLED.  Years later, I became a camp counselor at the same camp.  Occasionally I’d have a camper who was experiencing home sickness but most of the time we were just having too much fun.  It’s been years since summer camp was a regular part of my life but I got to thinking and wondering about what kind of camps are available nowadays. 

Some camps are the kind (like I went to) where you take your kids, drop them off, leave them there for a week and then pick them up.  Others you drop them off in the morning on your way to work and pick them up on your way home.  Still others, you ship them off for several weeks or months.  I can’t speak personally about any of these camps (except the first one, which is the one I went to) but I thought it’d be nice to see your options even though summer is already here.  If it’s too late to sign up now, there’s always next year!



The Breakdown:

Camper age: camps are available for ages 8-18

Cost:  $516 and $450 for 1 week enrollments

Session length:  1 week (Sunday – Saturday)

Activities include:  blobbing, archery, horseback riding, lake swim with iceberg, canoeing, campsite wide adventure games (these are so freaking fun!), swimming, live clue (a blast!), environmental education classes like herpetology, kayaking, disk golf, low challenge course, high challenge course, giant swing, arts and crafts, basketball, and field games.

My opinion:  your kid will never have more fun.  I loved every minute of camp and looked forward to going back every single year.  There are lots of camps like this in and around the Houston area (and elsewhere in the U.S.).  Other week-long faith-based camps that I’ve heard great things about are:  Camp Cho-Yeh and T bar M.



The Breakdown:

Camper age: camps are available for ages 5-13

Cost:  $140 for residents, $170 for non-residents (price per week)

Session length:  1 week, up to 11 consecutive weeks available.  Camp is M-F 9am-6pm (extended camp hours available for additional cost are 7am-6pm).

Camp includes entertaining trips, imaginative arts & crafts, interactive educational classes, and recreational sports.

My opinion:  This seems like a great idea for those who work full time and are at a loss regarding what to do with their kids during the week. 



The Breakdown: 

Camper age:  ages 6-12

Cost:  Varies depending on the age of the camper and the camp chosen.  Some as low as $184.

Session length:  Camps are held Monday – Friday from 10 am – 3 pm. For an additional weekly fee, care is available before camp begins each day, from 8 – 10 am, and after camp ends, from 3 – 5:30 pm. 

There are a variety of camps including:

Chemistry Camps, including Junior Science Magic, Booms and Blast Offs, Wizard Science Academy, Kitchen Chemistry, Bedazzled, Crime Scene Investigators and Super Science Magic.

Space Camps, including Space Cadet, Space Pilot, and Senior Space Commanders.

Robotics Camps, including Roving Robots, Robolab and Battlebots, and the new and improved Advanced Robotics. 

Physics Camps, including the always popular Star Warrior’s Academy, the new Star Warrior’s Council, Booms and Blast Offs, Junior Science Magic, Water Works, Da Vinci Science, Earth’s Wild Ride, Disaster Science, Extreme Machines, Fast & Furious and Design and Destroy

Social Studies Camps, including Mummies and Mysteries, Science of the Round Table, Da Vinci Science, and Medieval Madness

And Dinosaur Camps, including Junior Paleontologist, Dino Claws and Shark Jaws, and Paleontology 101!

Click here for a full list of camps by age range.


The Breakdown: 

Camper age:  ages 4-12

Cost:  Varies depending full day or half day camps.  $140-$445

Session length:  All camps are Monday-Friday. Half-day camps for ages 4-5 are from 9 am-12 pm or 1-4 pm. Full-day camps are from 9 am-4 pm.

 The camp I’d most like to do:  Keeper Camp: Enroll for zookeeper boot camp and learn what it’s like to feed, clean, train, and take care of our animals.

For a full list of the available camps click here


The Breakdown: 

Camper age:  The program is open to students entering grades 2-12

Cost:  $750

Session length:  Each Studio level meets Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to  3 p.m.  Sessions are 3 weeks long.  At the close of each three-week studio program, family and friends are invited to a final performance – a culmination of the process students have experienced during their summer session at the Young Performers Studio.

 My opinion:  Theme based camps are fabulous ideas for children.  It allows them to get away during the day for a week but still come home at night to their beds and a home cooked meal.  They’re also great ideas for children who get bored easily.  You could send a child to several different theme-based camps over the course of one summer.  Hopefully, you’ll never hear them yell ‘I’m bored!’




The Breakdown: 

Camper age:  The program is open to students entering grades 3-9

Cost:  Three-week Program (with boarding) $4,944 / Six-week Program (with boarding) $8,240

Session length:  Three or Six weeks

Located in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Cardigan Mountain School Summer Session combines academic review and enrichment with all of the recreation and fun of a traditional summer camp for boys and girls in grades 3-9. In the mornings, students can hone their skills in math or reading; work on study skills, note taking or test prep; or challenge themselves through literature, rocketry, robotics or foreign language courses. Classes in music, pottery, drama, and photography highlight the arts program, and Cougar Clinics give students the opportunity to practice a favorite sport or learn a new one. With so many choices, each student can design his or her ideal summer experience. In the afternoons and weekends, the 500 acre lakeside campus provides an ideal setting for sports, swimming, sailing, and simply enjoying summer in New Hampshire. Numerous off-campus trips, evening performances and bonfires, and our annual Green and White competition round out the Cardigan experience.

 My Opinion:  I like the idea of children taking some academic classes during the summer.  Even though school is out, three months is a long time to go without any schooling at all.  I think six weeks is a bit long to go to camp but the three week camp sounds just right.  This is probably best for ‘older’ children in grades 5-9 as I would think younger children would struggle with three weeks away from home. 

 These are, of course, just a handful of the plethora of camp options out there.  I think camp is a truly great experience that every child should have.  Personally, I don’t think it’s healthy for a child to never spend a night away from home except with relatives (I know people who are this way with their children).  Camp is a safe way for them to experience a little bit of independence.  Regardless of whether or not you choose to enroll your child in a summer camp, summer should be filled with fun and learning.  I think it’s imperative that parents spend more time with their children during the summer months and that children are not left to play video games and eat pizza at home all day.  Kids need to get out there and have some FUN! 

 What about you?  Did you go to summer camp when you were a kid?  Do you know of any other summer camps that you recommend?  What were some of your favorite summer time activities?