The 2002 US National Book Award winner for fiction - following the 2001 winner, Ha Jin's Waiting. In this captivating debut novel, Julia Glass depicts the life and loves of the McLeod family during three crucial summers spanning a decade. Paul McLeod, patriarch of a Scottish family and a retired newspaper editor and proprietor, is on a package tour of Greece after the death of his wife. The story of his departure from the family home in Scotland and late gesture towards some sort of freedom gives way to his eldest son's life (Fenno). Fenno protects his heart by putting himself under emotional quarantine throughout his life as a young gay man in Manhattan. When he returns home for his father's funeral, this emotional isolation cannot be sustained when he is confronted by a choice that puts him at the centre of his family and its future. The stubborn progress of life and love continues when Fern, a young American artist who met Paul in Greece, meets Fenno after her husband's recent death, under circumstances that left her full of guilt and self-doubt. Three Junes is a novel about how we live, and live fully, beyond grief and betrayals of the heart, and how family ties (those that we make as well as those that we are born into) can offer redemption and joy.
"The artful construction of this seductive novel and the mature, compassionate wisdom permeating it would be impressive for a seasoned writer, but it's all the more remarkable in a debut. This narrative of the McLeod family during three vital summers is rich with implications about the bonds and stresses of kin and friendship, the ache of loneliness and the cautious tendrils of renewal blossoming in unexpected ways. Glass depicts the mysterious twists of fate and cosmic (but unobtrusive) coincidences that bring people together, and the self-doubts and lack of communication that can keep them apart, in three fluidly connected sections in which characters interact over a decade. These people are entirely at home in their beautifully detailed settings Greece, rural Scotland, Greenwich Village and the Hamptons and are fully dimensional in their moments of both frailty and grace. Paul McLeod, the reticent Scots widower introduced in the first section, is the father of Fenno, the central character of the middle section, who is a reserved, self-protective gay bookstore owner in Manhattan; both have dealings with the third section's searching young artist, Fern Olitsky, whose guilt in the wake of her husband's death leaves her longing for and fearful of beginning anew. Other characters are memorably individualistic: an acerbic music critic dying of AIDS, Fenno's emotionally elusive mother, his sibling twins and their wives, and his insouciant lover among them. In this dazzling portrait of family life, Glass establishes her literary credentials with ingenuity and panache." Publishers Weekly
"Readers may be reminded of Evelyn Waugh and, especially, Angus Wilson by the rich characterizations and narrative sweep that grace this fine debut about three summers in-and surrounding-the lives of a prominent and prosperous Scottish family. Recently widowed Paul MacLeod languishes through a guided tour of Greece in 1989, buoyed by a hopeful, not-quite-romantic relationship with a Daisy Miller-like American artist. This sequence is a rich blend of carefully juxtaposed present action and extended flashbacks to Paul's youth and wartime service, management of his family's highly successful newspaper, and conflicted marriage to the woman whom he adored and who was probably unfaithful to him. The second "summer" (of 1995) brings Paul's gay eldest son Fenno home from New York City (where he co-owns a small bookstore) for his father's burial, and his own roiling memories of compromised relationships with his two brothers and their families and with former lovers and mentors. Fenno's account of what he wryly calls "a life of chiaroscuro-or scuroscuro: between one kind of darkness and another" is the best thing here. The third summer, of 1999, focuses on Fern, the artist Paul had briefly encountered during his Grecian junket. Glass deftly sketches in Fern's history of romantic and marital disappointments (she seems to be fatally attracted to men who are gay, bisexual, self-destructive, or just plain undependable) as well as present confusions (she's living with Fenno's former lover). But the manner in which Fern is coincidentally re-connected with the surviving MacLeods is both ingeniously skillful and just a tad too contrived. Glass makes it all work, though the parts are not uniformly credibleor compelling. Nevertheless, a rather formidable debut. The traditional novel of social relations is very much alive in Three Junes. Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen, among other exemplars, would surely approve." Kirkus Reviews