Country United States
Publication date October 1986
Originally published October 1986
Page count 224
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
|Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
ISBN 0-394-41062-9 (hardback edition) ISBN 0-345-34660-2 (paperback edition)
Awards Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Similar Peter Matthew Hillsman Taylor books, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners, Novels
A Summons to Memphis is a 1986 novel by Peter Taylor which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987. It is the recollection of Phillip Carver, a middle aged editor from New York City, who is summoned back to Memphis by his two conniving unmarried sisters to help them prevent the marriage of their elderly father to a younger woman.
As the story unfolds, Phillip reflects on the major incidents in the life of his once well-to-do family, which was forced to leave Nashville during the time of the Great Depression after the older Mr. Carver, a distinguished lawyer, lost a great deal of money in failed investments with his then-friend and business associate Lewis Shackleford. Though this happened when the four Carver children were still in their teens, they recall the event as a great betrayal, and the resulting move had a major impact on them and continues to affect their abilities to build stable relationships and function as adults. Their lives were further dominated by their father as he ended romantic relationships for his children if he disapproved of them for any reason.
Ultimately, the oldest Carver son would join the army and die in World War II. Neither Phillip nor his sisters ever marry. His sisters maintain an odd continued adolescence well into their fifties, dressing as though they were still attractive teenagers. Phillip moves to New York and lives with a younger woman whom he will never marry. The "summons" to Memphis in the book's title refers to several events, but chiefly a call by Phillip's sisters to return and help them block their then-octogenarian father from remarrying after the death of their mother.
The book is a rumination on the responsibilities of parents, friendships between men, the relationship between the "old" and "new" south, the nature of revenge and the possibility of forgiveness.