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by Gerald Coomer

Download Summer I Was Seventeen eBook
Gerald Coomer
Literature & Fiction
San Val (July 2002)
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Summer I Was Seventeen book.

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The Summer I Was Seventeen. A Story of the Appalachian Trail. Published July 2002 by Xlibris Corporation. There's no description for this book yet.

Summer Seventeen & You - eBook. I had to set boundaries. My heart belonged to Logan Hart. But when everyone left for the summer, I got bored and Elliot Shaw was interesting. This button opens a dialog that displays additional images for this product with the option to zoom in or out. Tell us if something is incorrect. Summer Seventeen & You - eBook. I questioned everything about me after Elliot and I became friends. Everything that I thought mattered didn’t anymore and life started to have a different meaning. But, with Logan’s return from summer vacation, Elliot Shaw had to become my best kept secret.

The summer that I turned seventeen was full of adventure. The Summer I Was Seventeen. By AdrStokes Ongoing - Updated Oct 19, 2012. The summer that I turned seventeen was full of adventure.

Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots

Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O’Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself. My Thoughts: From a brilliant writer comes this beautiful memoir that kept me turning pages and astonished at everything coming forth.

This is a tale about psychological growth and about the circumstances that may propel it: some steady, like the love of parents; some accidental, even chaotic, like the unpredictable things that might happen as a fellow hikes with strangers along a trail in the mountains.

At the beginning of the summer after his high school graduation, John Hunt accepts a job as a junior counselor at a hiking camp which operates in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He is hired in lieu of his older brother, a college student who is off to Europe for a few months.

John's father has a little talk with John before the boy leaves for his summer work. He tries to tell John that relationships with adults are tricky, hard – sometimes – to understand, and therefore a bit dangerous. Be cautious, he advises.

John is a healthy lad; he feels competent to deal with challenges; and he sets himself the task of understanding the adults he will be working with. But his father's warning – only partially understood – makes him a little jittery, especially when his initial contacts with those adults are immediately fraught with behaviors and ideas unfamiliar to him.

His chief boss is Tooley Madison, whom he meets unexpectedly in a strange place in a strange mood. Tooley turns out to be unlike anyone John has ever known. John watches as the arriving campers almost instantly place unfaltering trust in the man, and he observes how the boys come to love this, their leader, within the first few days.

It is Tooley who introduces the campers to the mythical Zip, whose inspiring presence accompanies the group as they climb up and down the ridges in the beautiful mountains.

Tooley evokes in John reactions which are new and worrisome. John, just as predicted, cannot make heads nor tails of his feelings. There is an early discussion of charisma among the members of the group, but understanding that sociological phenomenon does not settle John's uneasiness. A phone call to his dad helps, and John determines to live with the mystery as it is.

Then there is Richard, the high school teacher who seems at first a familiar type to John – a person who shares the middle-class, liberal views which dominate John's understanding of the world. John is, from the beginning, at ease with Richard, but not in the way the younger boys relate to Tooley.

Richard, for his part, understands and values John's qualities – the old aristocratic traits of beauty, intelligence, and virtue. Rich is a dedicated teacher, and he finds in John the perfect pupil. The relationship between the two flourishes. But Richard, though he understands much more of the world and life and time than John does, is very different from Tooley – more down-to-earth, more disciplined, less openly affectionate. John does not understand why the two men interact so well. Another mystery.

Clyde, at first, seems just like a hired man to John. Clyde does not hike on the trail with the rest of the group. He drives the truck and packs in to and out of the appointed campsites. John fairly quickly sees how important Clyde is to the functioning of the group, but only gradually does he discover that Clyde contributes to the spiritual well-being of the hikers. Clyde seems the most mundane of the three adult leaders, but as John gets to know Clyde better – from working closely with him on several occasions – he begins to feel the warm, caring interest Clyde has for the hikers and to grasp the depth of understanding, the sense of reverence, which Clyde has for the forest and the mountains. From Clyde, too, come insights into the events on the trail, objective observations which anchor John to the realities of the outside world.

And while John struggles with making sense of these adults and their relationships, things are happening – real events are demanding attention. At Gravelly Springs Shelter, for example, the hikers encounter an old mountaineer who had come up to that spot to spend alone a few of his last days. He is dying of a cancer which has deformed his face, but he is full of a sweetness that the boys have rarely seen, and they sense some clue here of why Tooley is so attractive to them. With great reluctance they leave the old man, and the experience leads to a serious give and take about male role-playing in society.

At another time, after climbing Mary's Rock, they encounter a Methodist youth group on a religious retreat. Those young people turn out to be John's age, and he finds among them soul-mates with whom to share a refreshed reverence for nature. In the music and in the self-searching of their activities, John re-commits himself to a high calling to always serve others. In a later discussion of this episode with Richard, John learns to evaluate this religious exercise and to see himself more clearly.

There is a crisis which Rich and John – separated at the time from the rest of the hikers – sense, as if psychically, from afar. When they catch up to the group, John sees Tooley in the role of a worried parent – nervous and upset, down from Olympus. An allergic reaction to a wasp sting has sent one of the boys off to a hospital in the lowlands, and Tooley is anxiously awaiting Clyde's return with news of the boy's condition. Tooley plans to go to the boy as soon as Clyde gets back, and with Rich there to take command, he asks John to hike with him out to the road. John sees Tooley's vulnerability, observes his Chief's less-than-Stoic agitation in the face of a situation which is out of his hands. But he feels flattered to be taken as a confidant and even more warmly drawn to this man who shows such deep concern for the stricken boy. That crisis passes.

It is in Rip Rap Hollow that John gets a further glimpse into Tooley's character. There, Tooley tells a story about himself that is full of symbolism, full of a kind of melancholy, a sense of confusion and defeat. But the story, by a strange set of circumstances, becomes a story within a story, and John sees that much of life is like that – stories within stories within stories. And it is at Rip Rap that John gets a hint that all hikes may be pilgrimages.

Days later, without warning, all of what John thinks is his growing understanding of Tooley is demolished by a letter which he finds on the trail. The letter describes a situation which is so foreign to John that the words themselves might as well be Greek. When, in his amazement, he shares the letter with Richard, they are confronted by Tooley, who claims the letter as his own. John is forced to see the Chief as a man who leads a life of quiet desperation and he cannot fathom how the generous, loving Tooley, a man so full of understanding and compassion, can see life as futile and meaningless. It makes for a personal crisis for John.

Richard calmly helps John through this insight into the paradoxes of existence, but John is a wiser and sadder fellow. And then, again without warning, Burgess shows up. John has known Burgess only as a character in stories told on the trail – stories about last year's junior counselor. But Burgess is real, and he has come back to Tooley to seek help in his own personal and philosophical crisis. Burgess knows that Tooley has somehow changed his life and, in doing that, has precipitated his crisis, so he has come back to the source. Burgess has a rational mind, but his heart is full of ghosts.

As the summer wanes and the hikers come to their last few days on the trail as a band of brothers, they create a ritual honoring the mythic Zip and embodying the sense of union they have found or created in the wilderness. But, despite the ritual, parting, as Richard says, is like a small death.

The pain of saying goodbye makes it almost impossible for John to articulate to himself what he has learned. But as the story ends, the lessons tumble out – rich, philosophical lessons that anticipate a maturity coming on quickly.

  • Bluecliff
Gerald Coomer has written that rare work of fiction that might appeal to a wide range of readers, from teenagers to gray haired sages. In our weary world so full of conflict and lacking in civility it is truly refreshing to discover such honest characters as John Hunt - a young staff assistant for boys hiking in the Appalachians. He is so innocent, so true, and so ready to re-imagine himself on the verge of early manhood. None of us will want to bid farewell to his loving mentor, Tooley - the teacher who leads these boys so kindly and with such gentle wisdom on their trek through the woods, recognizing all along the way the significant thresholds they cross. Eventually, we encounter others like old Mr. Turner - who has come to die in these same woods which once held the promise of spring. Coomer's novel suggests ways of finding wisdom in one's youth and reminds us of how we might revisit the innocence of our younger days to help us remember why we have moved in certain directions. The sojourn in this wonderful book is about much more than a seventeen year old boy's summer on the Appalachian Trail. Certainly the reader discovers a coming of age narrative, but the hiker who lived to recount such details of the forest and to share such tales of the human soul has traveled these paths many times and has not forgotten the thoughts of the great thinkers encountered along the way. Coomer allows us to enjoy youthful fellowship and spine tingling ghost stories around the campfire, but he also peppers his tale with well placed verses from the Greek bards, traditional hymns, and songs of the civil war. The ideas of St. Augustine mingle with those of Mathew Arnold at "Dover Beach," but Coomer's tale is not pretentious. It is the simple tale of male fellowship and lasting friendship which need not fear any sincere emotion or intellectual engagement. In short, it suggests an alternative to the ways young males are so often scarred in our culture, and it allows those of us who have passed through youth and young adulthood to treasure and re-experience those special moments that have helped us to discover a different way.
  • Levion
I collect books about the Appalachian Trail. This is the only book I have not been able to finish no matter how hard I try. I would give it 0 stars but that is not an option....
  • Hono
The Summer I Was Seventeen, by Gerald Coomer, is one of the few light novels I've enjoyed reading recently.
Vicariously trekking an old mountain trail, unknown to me, but rich with history and lore, I could savor John Hunt's experiences-replete with sensory delectation.
Gerald Coomer masterfully opens a portal where both he and the reader can project themselves into the persona of the fictional character, John Hunt.
Here is an idyllic setting that becomes more and more intriguing as the days and weeks of summer vacation pass, along The Appalachian Trail, to reveal the building of a youth's delicate character.
Tooley, the warm, charismatic, fatherly yet enigmatic adult leader of the group, subtly delivers lessons of life and love to all, but especially to John, who has not only shown a need to return Tooley's affection, but who has opened himself up as the quintessential seeker.
I applaud Gerald Coomer for literarily taking sensitivity and caring a notch higher in this too often insentient and insusceptible arena of life that has been sadly referred to in song as "teenage wasteland".
I would not at all be surprised if, in the near future, this novel were to be assigned as supplemental reading for either college Adolescent Psychology or Philosophy courses, where it could be more fully understood, discussed and appreciated.
  • Landarn
One of the characters in this novel has written a poem about friendship; the poem ends with two lines quoted from Montaigne -who, when asked to explain the reasons he loved a particular person replied, simply, "Only that it was he; / Only that it was I."

For me, this poem so perfectly describes this magical book. I've often wondered with amazement at the secret society of friendship among men. That acceptance so desired between them that only they can fulfill for each other. I have witnessed that unconditional bond, and can only describe it as -friendship.

This book so poignantly describes that acceptance and friendship among men (and boys) when away from social norms and taken to a place of the past, the Appalachian Trail.

It is rare and precious these days to find oneself in another place and time, a place beyond time really. The discovery of oneself in relationship to time and place, past and present, is written about skillfully in this book. The beauty of the place, of the soul, of a boy's purity, is all here. This is a wonder of a book.