Friday Book Whimsy: The Beach House

searchI’ve read a series of rather dark and violently graphic mystery novels lately, so Mary Alice Monroe’s wonderful low country novel The Beach House was a welcome relief.

The author was recommended to me by someone who knew I enjoyed novels that take place in the south, and especially in the low country of South Carolina. I have enjoyed authors such as Dorothea Benton Frank and Karen White, and it pleases me to no end to become acquainted with another.

Cara Rutledge left home at age 18, eager to be away from her abusive father and the mother who seemed unwilling to provide any help or support. She makes a good life for herself in Chicago. But suddenly her life is in turmoil when she loses her job and her boyfriend in one fell swoop. A letter from her mother asking her to come home and repair their relationship is welcomed.

The story line itself is somewhat predictable, but in a laid-back low country way. The reader is swept up into the soft, slow, wonderful life in a beach house on an island off the coast of Charleston — Isle of Palms. You feel yourself relax and you taste the fresh crabs and the sweetness of shrimp caught just before eaten.

I’m not giving anything away when I tell you that Cara’s mom is dying of cancer. The reader learns of her imminent demise early on. Normally I feel betrayed by books in which a beloved character dies. In The Beach House, however, Cara’s mother Lovey is at peace with her diagnosis, making it less devastating and a part of whole story.

The side story is about the birth cycle of the loggerhead sea turtles, which Lovey and her island friends have watched and help manage for many years. I learned a lot about the sea turtles and found that side story interesting rather than distracting.

There is the inevitable love story, but I found it enchanting rather than sugary sweet. And of course you can’t have a novel about the barrier islands without a hurricane. Monroe does a nice telling of the details around the hurricane. Her characters were memorable and I wanted to spend time with them all. And I definitely want to own a beach house on Isle of Palms.

I will be eager to read more stories by this author.

Here is a link to the book.

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6 thoughts on “Friday Book Whimsy: The Beach House

  1. My favorite of all Monroe’s books is The Butterfly’s Daughter which is a grandmother-daughter-mother relationship tale with a self discovery road trip plus the side story of the monarch butterfly migration. It sounds like a mess, but it is wonderfully written.

    • Thank you for the recommendation. The author is so prolific that I wasn’t certain what direction to go next. I love that she apparently incorporates an environmental piece into her books.

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