Or...The Summer Sisters.
This is the second book I've read by Mary Alice Monroe, the first was The Butterfly's Daughter, and I must say that her stories tend to make me feel at home, warm, and comfortable. I LOVE South Carolina, especially the lowcountry and it's beautiful beaches. Add an interesting southern family with a great beach house and I have to admit, I'm hooked. I enjoy southern fiction and Monroe's offerings are beginning to lure me in, one by one.
The Summer Girls is about an aging, loving grandmother that devises a plan to reunite her three granddaughters, all half sisters, who have grown apart and are spread out across the United States. Growing up, the girls spent their summers at Sea Breeze, the ancestral summer home of their paternal grandparents, Marietta and Edward Muir. Although the girls had the same father, each of their mothers once married to him, they could not be more opposite. As the sisters grew, summers spent at the beach became less frequent and the distance between the girls grew wider, each failing to remain in contact with the other. Mamaw feared communication between the siblings would be completely lost once she was gone, no longer their common thread. At 80 years old, Marietta, "Mamaw", isn't getting any younger but she wants the bonds of her granddaughters to be strong again. Mamaw wants to reunite her summer girls for one last summer at Sea Breeze. Will they come? IF they come, will one summer be enough to remind the girls- Dora, Carson, and Harper-of the special bond they once enjoyed?
I thought it was a well told story, each sisters tale unfolding nicely, at a gentle unhurried southern pace. The story centers mostly around the middle sister, 34 year-old, Carson, who returns to Sea Breeze from L.A., homeless, jobless, and penniless. Secretly, Carson has always been Mamaw's favorite and Carson is eager to return to the warm beaches she grew up on and a grandmother she adores. Carson comes alive when she is near the beach and the cool Atlantic Ocean. Spending the summer with Mamaw may be the blessing she's looking for, given her current situation.
Dora arrives with her autistic son, Nate. Her life is in complete turmoil. Carson and Harper are unaware of the impending doom that surrounds Dora, their older, bossy sister, the once perfect example of a southern wife and mother. Dora was the quintessential Southern belle.
Harper Muir-James is the youngest of the three girls and has little recollection of her father. She is aloof, quiet, and lives a very privileged lifestyle in New York. Harper's mother was the last of Parker Muir's wives. Harper's parents were briefly married and quickly divorced, all while pregnant for Harper. Her mother, Georgiana, loathes Harper's southern family and has done little to encourage a relationship with them. Harper, 28, still lives and works for her mother. Georgiana treats Harper more like an assistant than a daughter but Harper still feels the need to please her. What will her mother say when she mentions the summer reunion? Harper hasn't been in touch with her sisters in over a year. Does she even want to spend a summer with her deceased father's family?
I've always thought the beaches of the lowcountry were magical and it may take a bit of trickery to bring this family back together. When a wild dolphin makes a magical appearance at the family dock, will this be the trick that unites a family or will it cause an even bigger rift? A moving story focused on the bonds of family, the strength of sisters, letting go, unselfish acts, and the power of forgiveness. There is also a nature lesson to take away from this book, one that all of us humans should adhere to. Sometimes NOT GIVING to nature's creatures is the greatest gift of all. Now, with a glass of cool, iced tea in hand, I'm on to the second book in the Lowcountry Summer series, The Summer Wind, courtesy of Net Galley.
~Beautiful dolphins frollicking in the Atlantic Ocean near Sullivan's Island~