In the blogger world, Karen White is a rock goddess. She is gorgeous, she is Southern from her head to her toes, and she writes touching, comfortable women's fiction. And lucky for us, she is a bit of an overachiever, cranking out at least one book a year, sometimes more. (Not only that but she juggles a couple of teenagers, a husband and a dog-child.) I've had a chance to hang out with her over dinner, and she is the epitome of grace.
I'd like to thank Jessica at Penguin Group for offering me the opportunity to review her latest book "Sea Change". It took me all of three seconds to hit the e-mail reply button and scream YES.
Synopsis: Ava Whalen is embarking on a new journey, starting a new life. She and her new husband Matthew, who had a whirlwind courtship and quickly eloped, are moving to St. Simons Island, where Matthew lives in the home that has been in his family for generations. Ava feels that perhaps this is her chance to escape her feeling of never belonging in her own family and her arms-length relationship with her mother. She also has a terrifying fear of water, but she hopes that Matthew, who is a psychologist, can help her with that.
But there are secrets she is keeping from her new husband, and secrets he is keeping from her as well. Determined to get closer to Matthew, Ava begins researching his lineage, wandering the graveyards, and meeting her neighbors. Soon she feels a strong connection with a woman named Pamela who lived back in the early 1800's. The more she digs, the more she fears that the past may have the power to destroy her future, but she is compelled to find the answers.
Alternating back and forth in time, between the modern day with Ava, and Pamela in the early 1800's, we follow two strong women who are in love, and would do anything to save their families. This story is about family, about grandmothers, mothers and daughters, about bonds that extend over generations, and about second chances.
My thoughts: One of Karen White's signatures in her work is her ability to transport you to a really cool place. In this case, we travel to St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia. This is the Gothic deep South, with salty air and hanging moss and historically-rich landmarks. What a perfect place to tell a story about mysteries from the past!
And although I wouldn't classify it as a mystery, we have several we are attempting to uncover here. There are the rumors about the ghost of a man who walks the beach, pining for his unfaithful wife. There are Ava's unexplained fears and gaps in her childhood memories, and Matthew has a few unanswered (slightly sinister) questions about himself. It was a delightful, warm and comfortable untangling of threads that, in the end, was very satisfying.
Often if an author attempts to provide two narratives from different time periods, it falters, breaking up the momentum, or we find ourselves preferring one over the other. This did not happen here. I loved both Ava and Pamela, and thought that the pacing between the two was seamless and perfect.
So Karen gives us a little bit of mystery, a wonderful sense of place, a little bit of love, a little bit of history, some intriguing ancestors, some tragedy (to keep us humble), and a little bit of the unexplained. It all adds up to a very enjoyable summer read, which is exactly what we would expect!
4 out of 5 stars