A Summons to Memphis Summary & Study Guide

Peter Taylor
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A Summons to Memphis Summary & Study Guide Description

A Summons to Memphis Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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A Summons to Memphis is a story about Phillip Carver, an adult who narrates events in his childhood that led to his present day situation. The biggest event was when he moved with his parents and siblings to Memphis at the age of thirteen. The narrator believes that this sole action was the reason for the family's subsequent lifestyle.

Phillip is in his late forties and has since moved to Manhattan. His sisters, Betsy and Josephine have remained single and live near their father. His mother had died two years ago. Phillips's friend Alex, who also lives in Memphis, is quite worried about the widowed father and how the sisters would react if he decided to date and marry again.

Phillip recalls two old widowers from his childhood and the lengths their children went to keep them from remarrying. Institutionalization and banishment were not too extreme for children who did not want to share their future inheritances with a stepmother. Alex believes this is the route the sisters' will take with their dad.

The father does begin to date and the sisters seem to be okay with it. They relish being able to tell stories about his expeditions. They follow him around to the clubs and report his actions back to Phillip. Phillip thinks this is curious, but does not think too much on the matter. His own, long time girlfriend has moved out of the apartment and he is muddling over the loss.

One night, Father's actions seem to have gone too far. Phillip gets a call first from Betsy, then Josephine, summoning him back to Memphis to help handle the situation with Father. He has found a woman he intends to marry.

To explain how the present came to be, Phillip goes back and details events of his life since the move from Nashville. Philip Carver's father pulled up the stakes from Nashville after a long-standing friend and business partner deceived him. The family moved to Memphis and started over in 1931. In hindsight, Phillip recognizes Father seems to be the only one who made the transition without any residual scars over the years.

Betsy and Josephine were nineteen and twenty at the time of the move. They were both popular and had suitors looking for marriage. Each sister had a suitor at one time and was close enough for a proposal. However, Father steps in and the young men leave.

Betsy had Wyant Brawley as her beau. They were treated as an engaged couple. However, they did not make an announcement, perhaps, since Josephine was debuting that year. Wyant was traveling with the family as they moved and Father got antsy when they stayed behind at a restaurant a few minutes longer than the rest of the family. Eventually, he did not come around anymore and Betsy was alone.

Josephine had Clarkson Manning, who was interested in her. After dinner one night, Clarkson mentioned he was a distant relation to Lewis Shackleford. He did not see Josephine again. A couple years later, the sisters took on independence and opened a real estate business. Each bought a house in Memphis.

Phillip also had a brother named Georgie. Georgie told everyone he was drafted into World War II, when actually he enlisted himself. With the help of his sisters, he left for the war and ultimately, the end of his life.

Phillip recalls his mother and how she withdrew from life after the move to Memphis.

His sisters send him letters detailing Father's escapades. They are humorous for the most part. The last ones are more troublesome and come in shortly before the phone calls summoning him to Memphis.

Phillip returns to Memphis on the day the wedding is supposed to take place. His dad is happy and eager to see him. They head directly to the church, but find the pastor waiting outside with a note. The bride has left and will not be returning for a wedding.

Father is stunned and Phillip and Alex are secretly shocked. They assume the sisters had something to do with it. They return back to his house to find a moving van outside. Both of the sisters have given up their independent lifestyles and are moving back to live and keep a closer eye on Father.

Father's health starts to fail as the sisters' plan a vacation to a mountain resort. They ask Phillip to come. While they are eating one day, they run face to face with the man who forced their move from Nashville and subsequently the change of their futures. Lewis Shackleford approaches Father. The two act as if they are old friends and nothing has happened. The children are shocked and a little outraged.

The same dinner also presents Phillip with another situation. A woman he loved and had intended to be with, Clara Price is seated with her family at a table nearby. One of the sisters recognizes her and comments on the fact. After a moment, Phillip realizes he never introduced her to the family.

Father and Lewis seem to get back together as friends. Lewis invites Father for a visit, but the sisters, and even Phillip this time, block the visit. Betsy says Lewis has died and there will be no trip. Father seems to think on it a little and while talking with Phillip, he wonders how he always knows when to come back. Phillip doesn't really say. He just says that he is his ally. They start a weekly phone conversation after that and it serves both of them well.

Father's health fails and ultimately, he dies of a stroke the following spring. Phillip has reconciled with Holly during this time and her father is also sick. Both deal with the deaths of their fathers and come closer in doing so. Phillip gives Holly the clover pendant and wonders if she has seen it before in his drawer. She doesn't seem to mind and life goes on in his serene apartment, with Memphis out of his mind.

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