Beach House Memories is the third book in a trilogy written by Mary Alice Monroe, the revered author of the low country stories. Monroe is not only an author, she is also a conservationist and her work to protect the sea turtles figures prominently into many of her books. It certainly does in this one. Still, it is just part of the background for an amazing love story that plays out over the course of a year. Monroe takes you back to the Isle of Palms in 1974 and makes it come breathtakingly alive.
The focus of the story is Olivia "Lovie" Rutledge. As the book opens it is present time and Lovie is dying of cancer. She has come home to her beach house at the Isle of Palms which is located outside of Charleston, South Carolina. She is being cared for by her daughter Cara, who has come back to her mother's side after a time of estrangement. While Lovie waits for death to come, she reflects upon her life and particularly on the year 1974.
In the summer of 1974 Lovie had come to the beach house with her two children Palmer and Cara. Her husband Stratton stayed in Charleston but would join them later. Lovie was excited to be back at the beach as were her children. The children had their friends and activities while Lovie had her work with the sea turtles.
Lovie and Stratton's marriage was going through a rough patch but it was surviving. She certainly was not looking for a summer romance. That would go against her moral fiber. But then she meets Dr. Russell Bennett, a man who is also involved in work with the sea turtles, and all of her structured plans go out the window as her emotions gain control.
Monroe knows how to weave a tale and this is one of her very best. She creates vibrant characters of all ages and has them live and love in the paradise-like world of the South Carolina low country. It is a magical place in many ways, especially in the words with which Monroe describes it.
Every summer deserves one book that is THE summer book, and for beach reading you couldn't make a better selection than this one. Mary Alice Monroe knows how to pull the readers into this world instantly and keep them there till the very last word on the very last page. With the number of readers she is due to draw into this story, the tourism rate for the Isle of Palms should reach an all time high this summer.
Even if you can't head to the beach for a few days you can read this book anywhere and still hear the whisper of the wind and feel the warm caresses of those summer breezes. Monroe's novel is a vacation within itself, so hurry and jump into this latest Mary Alice Monroe novel, which is definitely one of her all time best.
Beach House Memories is published by Gallery Books. It contains 385 pages and sells for $26.00.
Jackie K Cooper