Beach Music by Pat Conroy

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Beach Music

by Pat Conroy

published by Nan A. Talese

1995

Summary

Pat Conroy is without doubt America’s favorite storyteller, a writer who portrays the anguished truth of the human heart and the painful secrets of families in richly lyrical prose and unforgettable narratives. Now, in Beach Music, he tells of the dark memories that haunt generations, in a story that spans South Carolina and Rome and reaches back into the unutterable terrors of the Holocaust.

Beach Music is about Jack McCall, an American living in Rome with his young daughter, trying to find peace after the recent trauma of his wife’s suicide. But his solitude is disturbed by the appearance of his sister-in-law, who begs him to return home, and of two school friends asking for his help in tracking down another classmate who went underground as a Vietnam protester and never resurfaced. These requests launch Jack on a journey that encompasses the past and the present in both Europe and the American South, and that leads him to shocking–and ultimately liberating–truths. (from Goodreads)

My Review

I am a big fan of Pat Conroy.  I loved The Prince of Tides and South of Broad especially, so I was excited to read Beach Music, which was published a while ago.  It is a long book, but you never feel dragged down by it.  It is lyrical and fast moving, even when there wasn’t much action going on.  While there are a few too many dramatic flairs for one story, they never overpower the book.  I found myself wishing I could have know Jack McCall and all of his crazy family.  A very long spanning drama, it was a great read.

My Rating

4 out of 5

About the Author

Pat Conroy is the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Water Is Wide) before publishing his first novel, The Boo. Conroy lives on Fripp Island, South Carolina

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The Invention of Wings

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The Inventions of Wings

by Sue Monk Kidd

published by Viking

2013

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Summary

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

Thank you so much Viking and Net Galley!!  This was an amazing book and I would even say a must read.  Sue Monk Kidd,  the author of The Secret Life of Bees, has given us a very powerful, beautifully written novel that follows the lives of two girls from childhood into womanhood.  We meet Sarah, the middle child of a large aristocratic family in Charleston, S.C. in 1803.  Her father, Judge Grimke, has authored much of Charleston’s judicial code on slavery and the family relies heavily on slaves in both their home in Charleston and on their nearby plantation.  For her 11th birthday, Sarah is given a slave of her own, Hetty (Handful), but unlike the rest of her family, she has very strong convictions about slavery and almost immediately tries to free her.  Unsuccessful, she instead teaches Hetty how to read.  We watch both these young girls grow into women, though into very different lives.  Sarah struggles to live according to her beliefs, and finds she must leave home to do so.  Through Hetty, we see the cruelties and injustices of slavery make a strong willed girl into an even stronger willed woman, very ugh like her mother, Charlotte.

The author based her novel on the real lives of Sarah Grimke and her sister Nina, abolitionists who were much hated in their hometown.  I loved that the author took time at the end of the book to explain her research and how she came to write about these amazing women.  To learn more about the Grimke sisters, look here-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grimké_sisters

It was ironic that I started reading this book while vacationing in the Charleston area over the holidays.  I loved being able to walk the streets of the story I was in the middle of reading.  Charleston is a beautiful city and one of the places I would recommend to everyone.

My Rating

5 out of 5

What do you think?  Will you read it?  Did you like it?

Please leave a comment-I love hearing from you!

The Last Original Wife

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The Last Original Wife

by Dorothea Benton Frank

published by Harper Collins

2013

Summary

Leslie Anne Greene Carter is The Last Original Wife among her husband Wesley’s wildly successful Atlanta social set. His cronies have all traded in the mothers of their children they promised to love and cherish—’til death did them part—for tanned and toned young Barbie brides.

If losing the social life and close friends she adored wasn’t painful enough, a series of setbacks shake Les’s world and push her to the edge. She’s had enough of playing the good wife to a husband who thinks he’s doing her a favor by keeping her around. She’s not going to waste another minute on people she doesn’t care to know. Now, she’s going to take some time for herself—in the familiar comforts and stunning beauty of Charleston, her beloved hometown. In her brother’s stately historic home, she’s going to reclaim the carefree girl who spent lazy summers sharing steamy kisses with her first love on Sullivans Island. Along Charleston’s live oak- and palmetto-lined cobblestone streets, under the Lowcountry’s dazzling blue sky, Les will indulge herself with icy cocktails, warm laughter, divine temptation and bittersweet memories. Daring to listen to her inner voice, she will realize what she wants . . . and find the life of which she’s always dreamed.

Told in the alternating voices of Les and Wes, The Last Original Wife is classic Dorothea Benton Frank: an intoxicating tale of family, friendship, self-discovery, and love, that is as salty as a Lowcountry breeze and as invigorating as a dip in Carolina waters on a sizzling summer day.

My Review

I was looking forward to reading this book, a I have enjoyed Frank’s novels very much in the past.  What I especially enjoy about her novels is the way she brings Charleston and the surrounding islands to life.  I love the way she describes the smells, sounds and sights of the area.  This novel begins in Atlanta, where Wes and Les’ marriage begins to fall apart.  Les goes to stay with her brother in Charleston to figure out what to do about her husband and grown children.  It was wonderful to see Les become more herself away from her controlling husband and need children.  The only problem I had was that Wes was totally insufferable, and I couldn’t understand how Les would have stayed as long as she did.  This was a fun and quick read (one day!) and I was glad to be able to put it between two more time consuming novels.

Rating

3.5 out of 5

Sullivan's Island, SC - Beach at Dusk

Sullivan’s Island, SC – Beach at Dusk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Photo in or around Charleston, South Carolina

Photo in or around Charleston, South Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moon Over Edisto

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Moon Over Edisto

by Beth Webb Hart

published by Thomas Nelson

20113

Edisto Island was where it all came apart. Can the Bennett girls ever be whole again?

Once, they were the happiest family under the sun, crabbing and fishing and painting on beautiful Edisto Island in South Carolina’s lowcountry.

Then everything went wrong, and twenty years later the Bennett family is still in pieces. Mary Ellen still struggles to understand why her picture-perfect marriage came apart. Daughter Meg keeps a death grip on her own family, controlling her relationships at a distance. And eldest daughter, Julia, left it all behind years ago, forging a whole new life as an artist and academic in Manhattan. She’s engaged to an art dealer and has no intentions of returning to Edisto. Ever.

Then an emergency forces Julia back to Edisto to care for her three young half-siblings. She grudgingly agrees to stay a week. But there’s something about Edisto that changes people. Can Julia and her fractured family somehow manage to come together again under that low-hanging Edisto moon?

“A rich, endearing, can’t-stop-reading book about what matters most, the power of love to transform the human heart.” –Dorothea Benton Frank, “New York Times “best-selling author, “Porch Lights”

(from Goodreads)

My Review

First, let me say I LOVE reading books about the South, especially South Carolina.   I have family that live right outside of Charleston, and I have been visiting there almost yearly for most of my life.  When I read a book set in Charleston, I get an extra thrill, because I know those streets, store, restaurants, etc.  I also know the outlying islands, including Edisto.  The author does a great job bringing the area to life.  The story, of betrayal and forgiveness, works very well in the southern setting.

Julia’s best friend Marney broke up her parents’ marriage in their senior year of college.  Almost twenty years later, Julia is enjoying s successful career in art and teaching, and has just gotten engaged.  Marney shows up at her door.  Now a widow and the mother to Julia’s three half siblings, she has lung cancer.  She needs surgery, and there is no one to care for the children during her recovery.  She asks Julia to return to Edisto to help her.

The story is told from the points of view of different characters- Julia, her mom MaryEllen, her sister Meg, Jed-doctor and neighbor, and Etta, her nine year old half sister.The characters develop quickly and I became immersed in each of their stories, especially MaryEllen.  She is still hurt by the collapse of her marriage and confused as to why both her daughters keep her at a distance.

I thought this was well written and moved quickly.

I received a copy of this book as part of a random give away through Goodreads.

 

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Sunrise at Edisto Beach SC

Sunrise at Edisto Beach SC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)