With thanks to Netgalley for the review copy – due to be published by New American Library on 12th May 2015
The New York Times bestselling author of A Long Time Gone now explores a Southern family’s buried history, which will change the life of the woman who unearths it, secret by shattering secret. It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt. Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother. Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.
I admit to having been attracted to this book by the rather beautiful cover, but there was such a beautifully told story within its pages that it is fair to judge this particular book by its cover. Initially the two main female characters seem to be polar opposites. Merritt with her New England reserved ways seems closed off and has learned self-preservation. Loralee seems to be the typical Southern belle, very open and concerned with her appearance. We learn that both have hidden reasons to be this way and Loralee is a much deeper, wiser character than she would first appear. I loved her Journal of Truths and one in particular applies to this book: “we rarely know everything about those whose lives we share”. This is true of many of the characters we meet in this novel, including Edith, Merritt’s late husband’s grandmother, through whose voice in a few of the chapters we learn of the secrets at the heart of this story. Karen White writes convincingly about her characters, creating a great sense of place as well and weaves the many strands of the story together skillfully. It is a very emotional book, particularly towards the end – you may need your hankies! What Merritt discovers at the end is summed up neatly in another of Loralee’s truths “Life doesn’t get easier. We just get stronger’.
This was a great read. If you are already a fan of Karen White you’ll be eagerly awaiting this. I think that anyone who enjoys the style of writers like Anita Shreve, Jojo Moyes and Dorothy Koomson would enjoy it. I really couldn’t put it down and it will be one of my books of the year I am sure. Five stars from me.