Quaker Universalist Voice

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The Call for Books in Grieving

A Book Review of Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (1974)

When you look for a gift to share with a person in grief of any tradition and culture, consider Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (1974). If you are looking for self-medication in grieving, consider it as well.

The book, translated beautifully by Kathryn Davis from Swedish, is a set of twenty-two short stories of conversations between a grandmother in the last chapter of life and a precocious grandchild in the first chapter of life on an isolated northern island in the Gulf of Finland.  

The discussions range from life, death, love, nature, and God.  For readers contemplating the elements of the life’s final chapter, managing the pains of felt loss in death, and being of any culture, this reading draws the reader gently into candid reflections that are universal in scope and life-touching. 

The illustrations by the author are linked to the text in simplicity and attraction.

There is a small treasury of books that experience testifies as providing support and assistance to people grieving the losses of death.  That small treasury of books can be shared with confidence.  It is worth compiling that list, with the help of your personal experience.The Summer Book belongs on my list.


This book is not authored by a Quaker and does not reference Quakers.  It appeals to Quakers as it appeals to all humans. It is a universal resource for all humans.


  • Which books do you gift to family and friends contemplating the final chapter of life and grief?
  • Which books in the Quaker tradition, in your personal experience, contribute to comfort and understanding for family and friends contemplating the final chapter of life and grief?


  • Tove Jansson. The Summer Book (1974)
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