“Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir” by Ajay Peter Manuel
Life is an adventure to embark upon. Having traveled around the world, my life has been full of separations, and new beginnings. Time flows incessantly, no matter what happens around us. The last six years of my life describe a unique journey from high school in Sudan to a university in Canada. The experience enabled me to learn the importance of family, friends, and love- along with the need to live life without regrets. My story begins with my struggles as an eleventh grader at Khartoum American School in Sudan, revealing the raw emotions of my first infatuation with a girl, her rejection, and my subsequent efforts to move on without her. Nothing could have prepared me then for the sequence of events that were to unfold in my life that summer, and the few years that followed. It all began when I found a friend in Tina. Our Last Summer offers a poignant glimpse into a young man’s coming-of-age journey through laughter, tears, betrayal, infatuation, and love as he cherishes the memories of his past, learns to live in the present, and happily anticipates his future.
One of the reading challenges on the list is to read a memoir and I figured – hey! It just so happens that my brother has a published book which is a memoir – why not read that? And so I did.
Our Last Summer is the journey of a teenager’s transition into adulthood through his various experiences through friendship, family, and love. We delve into the writer’s past as he reminisces of his time in high school that helped him to become the person he is today. As the blurb above suggests, this ranges from many things that we can all relate to on some level – relationships with people that have opened our eyes to what true friendship is about, our first experience with ‘crushing’ on someone and finding the will to have your heart move on from the hurt of a betrayal. Our Last Summer has something to offer everyone, especially to those who too are fond of their years in high school.
Life always presents us with hurdles and reality doesn’t come without its share of regrets, but you can always make one hell of a nice story about it.
The memoir, of course, employs the narrative voice of a first person point of view. We slip into the shoes and mindset of the writer as he shares his story with us. The ‘characters’, in this case are not fictional, but actual people. If at all, it only makes it easier to relate to them.
We all have that extremely close friend who we think of as a brother or sister. We’ve also had our share of first crushes and infatuations that later had us going: ‘what had gotten into my mind?’ Reading this book, I was able to connect to the various personalities I came across, bearing in mind my own experiences and friends that I’ve had as well.
I also loved the style in which the memoir was written. First and foremost, each chapter started off with a small quote that kind of foreshadows what the chapter will be covering. I found that each quote tied in nicely with the chapter while reading, in a way enhancing the message that Ajay Peter Manuel is trying to get through and at the same time, posing questions to the reader.
Be it success, joy, failure, or disappointment, a man who lives freely should be able to accept the reality of such experiences; even when all is lost, continue to live with hope and dream to strive for the best.
Our Last Summer isn’t only explored through chapters narrating the events of his high school life but the writer also includes poetry, lyrics, and journal entries to bring forth the raw emotions he was feeling at the time. The poems and songs were beautifully written to fit into the mood the chapter brings forth, and delving into his journal entries was a good change from the narration, giving us a more personal insight. I also loved the bits and pieces of light humor and jokes that pop up in the novel from time to time.
She said, “I hate you!” Three words—and she might as well have killed me then.
The only possible drawback I could say there was to this novel is the pacing. Some may find that the pacing of the story is slow, and at certain parts it did seem to drag on. But also, I have to keep in mind that this piece is a memoir. I can see that Ajay Peter Manuel is simply trying to paint a full picture in the minds of the readers and to explore the spectrum of emotions he feels to help take us back on this journey with him.
Our Last Summer is a wondrous blend of poetry and prose, that not only shares the story of the writer himself but a story we have all lived, or will live, at some point in this miracle called life. Through his journey, we recount our own and it’s a melancholic and bittersweet read. Having putting the book down, I felt lighter, happier and had my own walk down memory lane (as cliche as that sounds).
In life, when you bring people together, share your lives together, indulging in their emotions as they do in yours, you risk changing things and losing control. It’s all chaos – until you look back and realize that the only thing you can do is record time as it passes so that even when everything around us is in motion, we still have the permanence of memories.
Ajay Peter Manuel not only invites us to revisit the memories he formed as a budding young man in high school, but reminds us of the beauty of forming our own.