A Summer to Die
Goodreads ratings
4.03 / 5

"A Summer to Die" Summary

By Lois Lowry

young adult | 120 pages | Published in NaN

Thirteen-year-old Meg envies her sister's beauty and popularity. Her feelings don't make it any easier for her to cope with Molly's strange illness and eventual death.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

Thirteen-year-old Meg must cope with feelings of jealousy and loss when her younger sister is diagnosed with a terminal illness.


"A Summer to Die" by Lois Lowry is a poignant and heart-wrenching novel that explores the themes of love, loss, and the complexities of sisterhood. Set in a rural New England town, the story follows the lives of two sisters, Meg and Molly, as they navigate the challenges of adolescence and confront the harsh realities of life and death. Lowry's beautifully crafted narrative delves into the emotional turmoil of the characters, drawing readers into a world filled with raw emotion and profound insights.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story unfolds in a picturesque rural setting, where Meg and Molly O'Keefe, two sisters with contrasting personalities, experience the joys and sorrows of growing up. Meg, the older sister, is practical, pragmatic, and academically inclined, while Molly is vibrant, artistic, and free-spirited. Their lives take an unexpected turn when their family welcomes a new neighbor, Will Banks, a charismatic and enigmatic young man who captures the hearts of both sisters.

As the narrative progresses, the sisters' lives are disrupted by a devastating event—the diagnosis of Molly's terminal illness. The novel sensitively portrays the impact of Molly's illness on the family dynamics, as Meg grapples with feelings of helplessness and grief while witnessing her sister's declining health. Amidst the turmoil, Meg's perspective on life, love, and mortality undergoes a profound transformation, leading her to confront her own fears and insecurities.


The story is set in a quaint New England town characterized by its serene landscapes, rolling hills, and close-knit community. The idyllic backdrop serves as a contrast to the emotional turmoil experienced by the characters, highlighting the juxtaposition of beauty and pain that permeates the narrative.

Main Characters

The novel features a range of compelling characters, each contributing to the rich tapestry of the story. Here are the main characters:

Meg O'KeefeThe pragmatic and academically inclined older sister who undergoes a transformation as she confronts loss.
Molly O'KeefeThe vibrant, artistic, and free-spirited younger sister whose terminal illness shapes the course of the story.
Will BanksThe charismatic and enigmatic young man who becomes a significant figure in the lives of the O'Keefe sisters.

Summary of Different Story Points Over Chapters

Chapters 1-3: Introduction to the O'Keefe Sisters

The novel introduces the contrasting personalities of Meg and Molly O'Keefe, providing insights into their individual interests, aspirations, and relationship dynamics. The arrival of the enigmatic Will Banks sets the stage for the unfolding emotional journey.

Chapters 4-6: The Impact of Molly's Illness

Molly's diagnosis with a terminal illness sends shockwaves through the O'Keefe family, leading to a period of emotional upheaval and uncertainty. Meg grapples with feelings of helplessness and despair as she witnesses her sister's declining health.

Chapters 7-9: The Influence of Will Banks

Will Banks emerges as a significant presence in the sisters' lives, offering moments of solace and companionship amidst the turmoil. His interactions with Meg and Molly shape their perspectives on love, mortality, and the complexities of human relationships.

Chapters 10-12: Meg's Emotional Transformation

As Molly's condition deteriorates, Meg undergoes a profound emotional transformation, confronting her own fears, insecurities, and the fragility of life. The bond between the sisters deepens, and Meg's outlook on the world evolves as she navigates the complexities of love and loss.

Main Events

The narrative is punctuated by several pivotal events that shape the emotional landscape of the story:

  1. Molly's Diagnosis: The revelation of Molly's terminal illness sends shockwaves through the O'Keefe family, setting the stage for a tumultuous emotional journey.
  2. Will Banks' Influence: The arrival of Will Banks introduces a new dynamic into the sisters' lives, leading to moments of joy, introspection, and heartache.
  3. Meg's Transformation: As Molly's health deteriorates, Meg experiences a profound transformation, grappling with the complexities of love, mortality, and the enduring bond between siblings.

Themes and Insights


  • Sisterhood and Sibling Bonds: The novel delves into the intricate dynamics of sisterhood, portraying the complexities of sibling relationships and the enduring bonds that transcend adversity.
  • Love and Loss: Through the characters' experiences, the novel explores the profound impact of love and the emotional turmoil of coping with loss and mortality.
  • Coming of Age: The narrative captures the nuances of adolescence, portraying the characters' journey of self-discovery, growth, and the complexities of navigating the transition to adulthood.


  • Emotional Resilience: The novel offers insights into the resilience of the human spirit, portraying the characters' capacity to find strength and solace amidst profound emotional challenges.
  • Perspective on Mortality: Through the lens of the characters, the narrative provides thought-provoking reflections on the fragility of life and the transformative impact of confronting mortality.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Summer to Die" is a poignant and emotionally resonant novel that offers readers a profound exploration of love, loss, and the enduring bond between siblings. Through its richly drawn characters and evocative storytelling, the novel invites readers to contemplate the complexities of human relationships, resilience in the face of adversity, and the transformative power of emotional experiences.


In "A Summer to Die," Lois Lowry masterfully weaves a narrative that captures the raw emotions of adolescence, the complexities of love and loss, and the enduring strength of sibling bonds. The novel's timeless themes and insightful portrayal of the human experience make it a compelling and deeply moving read that lingers in the hearts of readers long after the final page.

A Summer to Die FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Summer to Die'?

    The genre of 'A Summer to Die' is young adult fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Summer to Die'?

    The author of 'A Summer to Die' is Lois Lowry.

  3. What is the main theme of 'A Summer to Die'?

    The main theme of 'A Summer to Die' revolves around the coming-of-age experiences of two sisters, family dynamics, and the impact of illness and loss.

  4. What is the setting of 'A Summer to Die'?

    The story is set in a rural community during the 1970s.

  5. Is 'A Summer to Die' suitable for young readers?

    While the book is classified as young adult fiction, it does contain mature themes and may not be suitable for very young readers.