Invincible Summers

After returning home from burying her father on Independence Day, ten-year-old Claudia Goodwin watches from the kitchen window as neighbors drag picnic tables and coolers into the middle of the street to celebrate the holiday. How, Claudia wonders, will she fit into this new fatherless world with the old one still going on around her?

Invincible Summers follows Claudia through eleven summers, from the age of six through twenty-three, as she adjusts with varying degrees of success to what it means to be a daughter, a sister, friend, and lover in a world of loss, betrayal and bad judgment.

Set in a middle class suburb outside of Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s, the novel shows Claudia’s pursuit to find a purpose as she struggles with feelings of rootlessness in a world torn apart by assassinations, riots, and the Vietnam War. It is a coming-of-age story of one woman’s journey through the guilt and responsibility she feels for her father’s death, her mother’s career-altering disfiguration, and her brother’s downslide into drugs and alcohol.

Invincible Summers weaves a tale about grief and forgiveness and the indelible heartbreak of all the things left unsaid.

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Invincible Summers Runner Up–Florida Book Festival: General Fiction

Invincible Summers Honorable Mention Awards

London Book Festival



Invincible Summers Honorable Mention Awards

Los Angeles Book Festival • Paris Book Festival • Amsterdam Book Festival • New York Book Festival • Beach Book Festival



Credit: Patrice Normand/Opale

Credit: Patrice Normand/Opale


LAURA KASISCHKEAuthor of The Life Before Her Eyes, Suspicious River, and White Bird in a Blizzard.

INVINCIBLE SUMMERS is a gorgeous meditation on history and family, innocence and experience. Gaines has created an unforgettable character in Claudia, but by following her through eleven years of her life, she shows us how each one of us is many characters throughout a single lifetime.  Her voice and sensibility changes, and we change with her, as the years pass and events alter her time and place and self.  At the end of this novel, we’ve lived alongside of Claudia, and the world’s many mysteries, and those of the human heart, have been laid bare.  This is the kind of reading experience for which literature was invented.

John Mauk, author of The Rest of Us and Field Notes for the Earthbound.

Invincible Summers explores the agony of family. The story begins with the death of Claudia Goodwin’s father, and then plunges into the murkier emotional trouble that follows for years. Through the 1960s and 70s, the world around Claudia moves on. But her loss walks along with her. Gaines deftly manages that loss and the way it floats through time—not shrinking but morphing, not fading but fusing to all of Claudia’s experiences. As the chapters progress through two tumultuous decades, they show how parents fumble their own children, how siblings abandon one another, and how people become itinerant and self-destructive. This is no simplistic tale of self-discovery, nor is it a dirge. It is, in Claudia’s own words, a restless search for nowhere fueled by moments of whimsy, humor, and hope. I am glad to have read Gaines’s fine debut novel and look forward to her next.

Credit: Miami University

Credit: Miami University

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