When I found out Charleston author Mary Alice Monroe was going to do one more book in her “Summer Girls” series, I almost jumped for joy. Last summer, I very slowly read the last couple chapters in “The Summer’s End,” not quite ready for this trilogy to come to a close. I was invested in the story of three half-sisters – Carson, Dora and Harper – and their grandmother at the family beach house on Sullivan’s Island.
I mean, we’d been through a lot together, and I needed more from this family. Enter, “A Lowcountry Wedding,” the perfect final chapter in this touching tale of family, forgiveness and finding the very best parts of yourself.
In the first book, “The Summer Girls,” we’re introduced to Mamaw who gathers her three granddaughters at her historic beach house under the guise of celebrating her 80th birthday, but with a true intent to heal childhood wounds and draw the three grown women back together. Over the course of the three books, Monroe goes deep into the stories of each of sister, exploring past insecurities and taking us on a journey with each woman as she heals those old hurts and moves forward.
“A Lowcountry Wedding” follows two of the sisters as they prepare for their nuptials – one a beach wedding and the other at a historic Charleston plantation. When a stranger arrives at Sea Breeze, a scandal surfaces and family bonds are questioned.
Throughout each of the four books, Monroe paints a vivid picture of living in the Charleston area, highlighting local restaurants and shops, attractions, history and the overall feel of Charleston in the spring and early summer.
And there’s an important environmental lesson to be learned in Monroe’s books as well. A stanch conservationist, Monroe weaves throughout these books the story of Delphine, a dolphin who befriends one of the sisters. The family becomes too friendly with Delphine, and she ends up gravely injured after getting tangled in a fishing line. As she does in all her novels, Monroe educates readers about our fragile wildlife with a gentle reminder of the precarious balance between human and animal and our role in protecting them.
If you’re new to this series of novels, start at the beginning with “The Summer Girls” and then pick up “The Summer Wind” and “The Summer’s End” before settling in with “A Lowcountry Wedding.” You won’t be disappointed. Monroe has delivered a magnificent set of summer books you won’t want to put down until the very end.
More books – with Southern ties – to pack in your beach bag:
“All Summer Long” by Dorothea Benton Frank. This book follows New York couple prominent interior designer Olivia Ritchie and English professor Nicholas Seymour, a true southern gentleman. They are seemingly polar opposites, yet magnetically drawn together and in love for more than 14 years.
As they prepare to relocate to Charleston, Olivia, the ultimate New Yorker, has reservations about the promise she made to retire in the Lowcountry, where Nick wants to return home and lead a more peaceful life. They are moving north to south, fast pace versus slow pace, and downsizing. Nick is ecstatic. Olivia is not. She can’t let Nick know that their finances are not what he thought. Her client list is evaporating, their monetary reserves are dwindling and maybe that house she picked out on Sullivan’s Island needs too much work.
As they find themselves pondering the next step of their lives, Olivia and Nick travel with her billionaire clients and their friends and are swept up into the world of the ultra-rich and explore the globe with a cast of zany eccentrics over one tumultuous, hot summer. All as Olivia grapples with what lies ahead for her and Nick.
“Flight Patterns” by Karen White. Georgia Chambers has spent her life sifting through other people’s pasts while trying to forget her own. But then her work as an expert of fine china — especially of Limoges — requires her to return to the one place she swore she’d never revisit.
It’s been 13 years since Georgia left her family home on the coast of Florida, and nothing much has changed, except that there are fewer oysters and more tourists. She finds solace seeing her grandfather still toiling away in the apiary where she spent much of her childhood, but encountering her estranged mother and sister leaves her rattled. Seeing them after all this time makes Georgia realize that something has been missing — and unless she finds a way to heal these rifts, she will forever be living vicariously through other people’s remnants. To embrace her own life — mistakes and all — she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep.
“The Last Star” by Rick Yancey. This books is the final installment of The 5th Wave series. The enemy is Other. The enemy is us. They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us. Beneath all these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves. In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves . . . or saving what makes us human.
“Ghosts of War” by Brad Taylor, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces lieutenant colonel who now lives in Charleston. In this new book, Pike Logan travels to Poland, hired to verify artifacts hidden for decades in a fabled Nazi gold train, only to find himself caught amid growing tensions between East and West. On the brink of war, Pike discovers that there is a separate agenda in play, one determined to force a showdown between NATO and Russia. With time running out, Pike races to unravel the mystery before a point of no return is reached. “Ghosts of War” is due out June 28.
Pick up your beach reads at independent bookstore Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St. Also check the store’s calendar of events for book signings and special events: bluebicyclebooks.com.