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Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Moon Over Edisto by Beth Webb Hart

Book Type: Southern fiction/family saga

Predictability Factor: Not so much.

Cover Art: Cutesy cursive font makes the book look like a romance...

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Simon, Jed, Charlie/Marney/Meg

Character Score: 6.75 out of 10 Mr. Micawbers

What's the Story?: Dad leaves his family for his oldest daughter's college roommate.  Lots of emotional trauma and therapy ensues.

X-factor: Edisto Island, SC!!!!

Predictability Factor: Okay.  Yes, you know from the very beginning of the novel that something is going to push Julia into going back to South Carolina.  Yes, you know that all of the Bennett women are emotionally scarred and act in some predictable ways.  But this book isn't about plot twists or "who dunnits" so I can accept that.

Cover Art:  Lame.  Makes this look like a cozy romance where two people who have come from vastly different backgrounds and thought they'd "Never love again" fall in love on a beach under the moon.  I'd like it better if there were a painting of a moon over the sea since that goes with the story.  But that's just me.  It isn't a fluffy romance/beach read.

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Well, I'd totally do it with Simon simply because he is dashing and British.  Done.  Anyone would be stupid not to marry Jed because 1. he's hot.  2. he's a surgeon. 3. he can Cook.  With a capital "C." Also, he's adorable and sweet.  Okay, I'd love to wring Charlie's neck because, what the hell was a grown man like that thinking??? But he's already dead when the book starts.  Marney is just as stupid but she's dying painfully of cancer so she's getting hers.  Then there's Meg.  What a self-righteous bitch.  Blah.  She needs to grow up and see that if her mother and older sister can deal with this, then she can too.

Character Score: Love most of the characters and love-to-hate a few others.  I was completely sucked in by this family and the adorably emotionally-crippled children.  It that even a thing?  Can you be adorably crippled?  Apparently so.

What's the Story?:

The Bennett family was happy and loving.  For years, the married couple and their two daughters spent their summers in a little beach house on Edisto Island less than an hour away from their Charleston, South Carolina home.  The girls fished and sailed boats, their mother cooked large, sumptuous meals and their father immersed himself in his favorite hobby: painting.  One summer, the eldest daughter Julia brings her college roommate to stay with the family for the summer.  Marney becomes like an adopted daughter, joining in on family activities and working with Julia to save money before going back to college again each fall.  But one summer, something is different.  Marney stands a little too close to Charlie Bennett, drinks from his cup, stares a little too long.  That fall, Charlie announces that he is divorcing Mary Ellen and stays out at the beach house permanently with Marney. 

Before the Bennett’s know it, Marney is expecting a child and Charlie marries her so the two can start a new family.  Heartbroken, the Bennett women all deal with this loss in different ways.  Julia flees to graduate school and then New York City where she has become a famous painter and visual arts teacher at a university.  Second daughter Meg keeps everything in her life as orderly and proper as possible and continues to do so throughout marriage and children.  Mary Ellen takes up a new job in Charleston and becomes a well-respected frame restorer for an antique store.  Each of the women avoids the issue as much as possible, even after Charlie’s death several years later.

Fast forward twenty-five years and the Bennett women have rebuilt their lives in one fashion or another.  Then one evening after Julia is preparing for a large art show, Marney appears at her door in New York.  She has lung cancer and needs Julia to care for her three children while she recovers.  Julia, who has never met her half siblings (and never wanted to) has a big Fulbright scholarship trip planned to Istanbul in the coming months is convinced that there must be someone else who can care for these children.  After all, Marney ruined her family and years of her happiness.  Julia certainly doesn’t owe her anything.
But Julia changes her mind and returns to South Carolina and the island that she has tried not to think about for years.  Terrified that this trip will destroy her emotionally, she treads very lightly at first.  But when she sees the youngest boy who has her father’s eyes, the middle daughter who loves to draw and paint just as she and her father used to and the serious eldest child who loves to read she finds herself falling in love with the family she never knew. 

Julia may not find all the answers to her questions, but by returning to Edisto she does more for herself and the three children than she’d ever imagined.  Moon Over Edisto is full of the southern Gothic and emotional pull of a complicated family saga.  

X-factor: You guys.  You guys!!!! I was totally stoked when I saw this book was reviewed by Publisher's Weekly.  Here's the reason: Edisto Island.  My family used to go to the island when I was a kid and rent a beach house with my aunt and uncle who live in Charleston.  We always had so much fun. In fact, we had so much fun that as the years went by, we made it a family vacation with ALL of my uncles, aunts, cousins and my grandmother.  Granted, that was such a big group that we couldn't find a big enough house for all of us on Edisto so we switched over to Folly Beach, but it is still fun to this day.  We're even going down there for one last trip this June.  So, no matter what this book was about: politics, history, sappy romance, I was going to read it.  And I am so glad that I did.

Loved this book.  Loved the characters, loved the drama, loved seeing people become their own person and   overcome their emotional wounds.  This is a great book for summer and I highly recommend it for any who love a good Southern tale.


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