Unexpected unemployment and repeated burglaries prompt an unconventional choice by the author to forego her city apartment, and embrace a simple, stripped-down life absent amenities such as plumbing, electricity, and central heat. Calling upon her pioneering spirit, she draws both serenity and strength from Mother Nature to savor life off the grid. During her retreat, she creates a sanctuary in which she contemplates her own philosophies and life direction, ultimately transforming her outlook in the face of what appeared to have become a world gone mad.
The author has been described as a benign non-conformist — someone who lives and experiences life on her own terms and values, and is not overly concerned with how humankind at large may judge that life path. This appraisal certainly is borne out in Summer of the Phoenix, as she comes to realize what it was that lent such richness to her experience of that summer.