Mary Alice Monroe writes about time and tides and sets her stories in the mystical area of our country called the lowcountry. This is the lower portion of South Carolina and it is a place of warm air, soft sands and generous spirits. It is such a magical place that Monroe has compiled a trio of novels under the heading of "The Lowcountry Summer Trilogy." The first book was titled The Summer Girls and the second, which is now available, is titled The Summer Wind. The third and final story in this grouping will be released in 2015.
The stories concern three half sisters who are called to Sullivan's Island by their paternal grandmother Mamaw. She offers them the use of her beach home for the summer. When the women rebel at staying there for the entire summer, Mamaw sweetens the offer and they all agree. The sisters are Dora who is going through a divorce, Carson who is between jobs, and Harper who is on the outs with her wealthy domineering mother.
The first book focused mainly on Carson and her problems. In this second book the emphasis is on Dora. Dora has enough problems for a ton of books. She has grown up with the goal of being the ideal southern woman in her mind. She married right and had the requisite child. Then everything fell apart. Her child was diagnosed with autism and her husband couldn't cope. Now they are separated and Dora and her son are living at Sea Breeze, her grandmother's place.
Throughout the course of THE SUMMER WIND Monroe reveals a variety of insights into the personalities of the three women. She does this with perception, wit and intelligence. These women are part good and part bad, with a lot of traits in between. They were close as children but it is hard to find their way back to closeness after years of being apart.
Monroe also deals with the treatment of dolphins in this story, though not as much as in the first book. This time out she utilizes the dolphins as a means of therapy for adults and children with emotional problems or behavioral issues. This is only a small part of the story but it is an effective element of the overall plot.
Where Monroe excels is in her presentment of place. She imbues her setting with such color and chemistry that any reader will be pining to visit after only a few pages into this book. Her characters soak up the atmosphere and so do the readers.
Monroe also serves up a ripe bed of emotions. Readers will identify with these women and go through their hurts and their healing. Tears will be shed as the innermost secrets of their hearts are exposed. Plus there are external situations that will touch the readers in a most expansive way.
Mary Alice Monroe's books are written epitomes of what the lowcountry is all about. She captures the essence and spreads it on her pages, and she does it with stories that touch the mind and the heart of her readers. The Summer Wind may be part of a trilogy, but it is also a stand alone story of depth and compassion. It is the perfect beach read, and a whole lot more.
THE SUMMER WIND is published by GALLERY BOOKS. It contains 384 pages and sells for $16.00.
Jackie K Cooper
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