Finding Home in The Beach Trees

BlogHer Review

I've been waiting lately, for another book that I just couldn't put down. One of my early book club reviews was one of those books, but since then, I've been hoping to get another. It finally arrived, with The Beach Trees by Karen White. After reading the summary of the book, I tucked it into my bag for a 3 hour flight, settled in on the plane and read, and read, and read.

The Beach Trees takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans and Biloxi. The two protagonists, Julie and Aimee, are similar women from different generations, searching for what they have lost. Julie has become guardian to her best friend's young son, and has taken him to the South to meet the family he has never known, while struggling with the fact that her sister's disappearance in childhood has never been solved. Aimee, the grandmother of Julie's friend and great-grandmother to Julie's young charge, is also searching for answers, from why her granddaughter left at age 18 never to return to New Orleans to her own mother's death when she was a child.

The novel switches between the voices of Julie and Aimee, with Julie telling today's story and Aimee explaining the past, to see how the stories of two separate families may have intertwined once before, and how triumph can rise from the ashes of tragedy. Throughout the novel, the rebuilding of the Gulf cities after Katrina takes place, mirroring the rebuilding of lives after personal devastation, all the while trying to find what is home.

For Julie, home ended at age 12, when her younger sister disappeared. For Aimee, home never really existed, after her mother's death when she was 3. Both women have searched for home in many ways, Aimee by building new relationships into a family, whereas Julie rid herself of attachments. In the end, their discoveries lead to a new home, similar to the rebuilding in the Gulf -- home may not be the same, it may not look the same, but home exists because of something inside.

For those looking for a compelling summer read, The Beach Trees is one of two on my current list of recommendations. Any book that can make me regret that my flight is landing is a definite page-turner.


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