44 pages 1 hour read

Steve Kluger

Last Days of Summer

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1998

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


The Last Days of Summer is an epistolary novel written by Steve Kluger and published in 1998. The novel offers a view into the life of Joey Margolis, an articulate, resourceful, tender-hearted young Jewish baseball fan who resides in Brooklyn, New York during the 1940s. His parents’ divorce results in Joey’s estrangement from his father, who marries a Manhattan socialite and fails to maintain contact with his son, as well as relocation from the Hasidic neighborhood to another that is largely Christian. Joey is being raised by his mother, Ida Margolis, and his aunt, Carrie Gettinger, neither of whom are aware that Joey’s constant bumps and bruises are not the result of accidents, but of being beaten up by other boys due to the fact that he is Jewish.

The story is told through a series of vignettes, including letters, newspaper clippings, memos, and baseball scorecards, which produce a poignant, comedic account of Joey’s search for a personal hero. His impulsive, creative communicative style stymies teachers, administrators, and rabbis. A prodigious letter writer, Joey corresponds regularly with President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, offering advice about politics and military strategy.

Joey’s most important relationship begins when he writes a letter to Charlie Banks, a third baseman for the New York Giants, and advises him that he is fatallyill and in desperate need of having a home run dedicated to him in an upcoming game.

Charlie, an outwardly curmudgeonly athlete with a proverbial heart of gold, initially responds with instructions that Joey cease writing him; however, he eventually succumbs to Joey’s charms. Charlie becomes an instructor, a mentor and—most importantly—a father figure to Joey. The incongruity of Charlie’s Midwestern, Protestant roots, juxtaposed with Joey’s ethnic, New York City background, reaches its pinnacle when Charlie stands in as Joey’s father at his bar mitzvah. The ballplayer becomes a member of the Margolis family, while Joey enters the world of Charlie’s companions—his future wife, singer Hazel McKay, as well as his best friend and teammate, Stuke—and becomes comfortable in the company of celebrities and athletes of that era. Under Charlie’s tutelage, Joey matures and learns life lessons from his wise-cracking mentor. When Charlie enlists in the Marines following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Joey hides in a supply truck in order to visit his hero in California. In the interim, the ballplayer lectures his charge in the art of wooing his classmate, Rachel, whom Joey eventually marries.

When Charlie is killed during a heroic effort to rescue Marines pinned down by enemy fire, Joey’s heart is broken; however, Charlie has had the foresight to leave one last advice filled letter behind for the boy. The Epilogue reveals that Joey becomes a sports writer and author and marries his childhood sweetheart, Rachael. The couple reside in a Brooklyn brownstone near their old neighborhood, where they raise their children: Sarah, Jenny, and Chuckie.