My Summer Read: The Beach Trees
Imagine suddenly being left as the sole caregiver to your best friend's five year old child. Imagine that you've also been left her portion of a summer home on the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast. Imagine travelling to the deep south from New York City to find that the summer home had been completely destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. On top of that, you've been left one other item and you are not quite sure why. This is what happens to Julie in Karen White's newest novel, The Beach Trees. Always living a temporary life, on hold since the disappearance of your younger sister nearly twenty years earlier, Julie is faced with having to make decisions not only for herself but for her friend's son, Beau. Will she be able to settle down? Why, oh why, did Monica want Julie to go back home to the family she, herself, had left without warning many years before?
Though a series of first person narratives told through the eyes of Julie and those of the lady that Monica considered her grandmother, Aimee, we are introduced to an intertwined cast of characters. We learn that all families have secrets and how what Monica learned changed her life forever. Growing ever closer to Monica's family down south, Julie has to face her own past and learns that sometimes letting go isn't a matter of giving up but part of moving on.
Karen White very successfully creates a cast of characters that one wants to know more about. By giving you just enough information to have you feel strongly for them and then switching back to the other narrator, Ms. White keeps you reading. These characters are those that are easy to relate to. Everyone has some sense of home and family and these feelings can change over time and circumstances so it is interesting to see how these feeling change as the story develops. I was also very much captivated by the backdrop of New Orleans and Biloxi and the destruction, but strength, that was left after Hurricane Katrina. While this story takes place 5 years after the hurricane, the pain, the stories feel raw and real and the dedication to rebuild strong. I love how the Katrina trees played a symbolic role throughout the story and had to research them myself after as I had not known of their existence. What power and beauty!
As I enjoy book with a realistic setting and dynamic characters I very much enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others who enjoy this style as well.