Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe

Mary Alice Monroe is one of those authors that had been on my to-read list for many years. You know the type - the ones you always intend to read, but never get around to it. On Victoria Day, I had just finished reading another book and found myself absolutely craving a good beach read (see my previous posts on how I'm a mood reader). I turned to my Kobo and found The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe. Sounding like the perfect read for the mood I was in, I settled in in a chair outside on my patio. Sunscreen on, neighbours radio blasting (they have a pool, I am forever jealous), and that is where I sat while I read the entire book. I loved it!

From Goodreads: Three sisters reunite on Sullivan’s Island off the coast of South Carolina after years of separation in this heartwarming first novel in a new trilogy from a beloved author.Eighty-year-old Marietta Muir is a dowager of Charleston society who has retired to her historic summer home on Sullivan’s Island. At the onset of summer, Marietta, “Mamaw,” seeks to gather her three granddaughters—Carson, Eudora, and Harper—with the intent to reunite them after years apart. Monroe explores the depths and complexities of sisterhood, friendship and the power of forgiveness.

My thoughts: Carson, Eudora (Dora), and Harper are half-sisters who used to spend their summers on Sullivan's Island with their Mamaw, but as they grew older, they stopped visiting. Mamaw is not getting any younger, and has lured the girls back to the house for a visit. The grown women find that they are definitely not the same kids they were growing up, and each has their own difficulties.

Dora, the eldest, has a son, Nate, who is autistic and Dora has devoted her entire life to him. She's also separated from her less than loving husband, a few pounds overweight, and trying to be the perfect Southern belle.

Carson is a once successful stills photographer whose show has just been cancelled, leaving her without a job. She finds herself in an unlikely (but completely awesome) friendship with a wild dolphin that she's quick to name Delphine. Oh, and she has a tiny bit of a drinking problem.

Harper is the youngest, and the one who seemingly has it all. Her mother is the editor of a successful fashion magazine, thus leaving Harper very wealthy. Wealthy, but unhappy trying to live up to her mother's expectations.

As you can probably tell, the girls are completely different people. I found the girls to be relatable in different ways. They all have flaws and issues that make them very real, and readable, but they're also endearing. You want them to succeed. You want them to be happy, especially once you learn the secrets that Mamaw is harbouring about their father and mothers.

Mamaw is a feisty old thing and I love her! She is the epitome of what I imagine a strong Southern matriarch to be, and one I'd love to have in my corner. You'll also fall in love with Lucille, Mamaw's maid turned best friend. She is even feistier than Mamaw!

While this book features chapters from each character, it is heavily focused on Carson's story, which I kind of loved. I found her story to be sad, but hopeful. Of all three girls, she had the closest relationship to their father, and as a result, has some lingering issues she needs to work through.

I'm having trouble even reviewing this because I liked it so much. Read this if you like complicated sister stories, dolphins (seriously, Delphine's story wrecked me), and books that take you to their setting and make you feel like you're right there. My patio became a beach-side retreat while I read this, though that might have been my neighbours splashing around in their pool.

5 out of 5 stars based on Goodreads rating system.

Stay tuned for my review of The Summer Wind - the second, and equally as great, book in this series. This one focuses heavily on Dora's story.

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