Posted in Beach Read, General Fiction, Southern Fiction, Women's Fiction

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

Publication Info: I listened to the audiobook through my local library. Published May 8, 2018 by MacMillan Audio. Other editions available in bookstores and libraries.

Summary: Ninety-nine year old Josephine Bettendorf Warrick is dying of cancer. She owns a crumbling mansion and most of a barrier island off the Georgia coast. The state is trying to take the island and turn it into a park. With no direct heirs, curmudgeonly Josephine, determined to keep it out of the hands of the state, contacts attorney Brooke Trappnell and tells her that she wants to leave the island to her old friends and their descendants. All but one of her friends is deceased. They used to call themselves The High Tide Club.

Shortly after Josephine hires Brooke and reveals a shocking secret to her and several other people over dinner, she dies, leaving even more stories untold.

Comments: Mary Kay Andrews writes sympathetic and compelling novels that make fantastic beach reads. The High Tide Club is no exception. I love the gentle flow of her writing, but there is plenty of drama to keep me riveted. The High Tide Club’s themes include love, abandonment, betrayal, danger, acceptance and hope. I felt that I really got to know the characters, as their lives unfolded with every page and chapter. I really loved this book and look forward to reading more by the author.

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in 20th Century, Best Sellers, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Southern Fiction

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Publishing Info: Published June 6, 2017. I listened to the audio edition by Random House Audio through my Audible.com subscription. Other editions available. Check with your favorite bookseller.

Summary: in 1939, five children live with their loving parents on a Mississippi river boat. Their mother goes into labor with twins. Unlike the other easy births, Queenie’s life is in danger. Her husband takes her to the hospital, where they are told their twins were born dead.

Meanwhile, a local boy helps look after the five other children, the oldest of whom is twelve year old Rill Foss. But he is helpless when the children are stolen and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. The children are now under the ruthless care of Georgia Tann. Georgia’s intent is to sell poor children to wealthy people at a great profit for herself. The children are fed minimum rations. They are punished by being tied up in small dark spaces. Pedophiles work at the orphanage. The only time a child is “spiffed up” is when a potential parent comes to visit. Georgia lies about their parentage and splits up families without blinking.

Growing up on the Mississippi river, Rill knows a thing or two about surviving. As the oldest, she feels responsible for her brother and sisters. But she is helpless when one of her sisters vanishes after being punished and two others are adopted away from her.

Meanwhile, Avery Stafford, a wealthy, privileged attorney, is trying to solve a family mystery. She comes across a photo of four women who all look very much alike — one of whom is her grandmother. As she digs deeper into this mystery, it changes the focus and foundation of her life and identity.

Comments: I’m very glad I finally got around to reading this book, which was on the best seller list for about two years. I’d never heard of Georgia Tann. When I looked her up after reading the novel, I realized that the author didn’t exaggerate anything in Before We Were Yours. In fact, she probably downplayed some of the horrors that the real children faced at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

I loved the characters of Rill Foss and Avery Stafford. Their voices, as narrated by Emily Rankin and Catherine Tabor rang true. I enjoy listening to some genres, because it forces me to slow down my reading speed and really get into the story. This was definitely a book that benefited from really getting into the characters and rich atmosphere.

Very highly recommended for readers of General Fiction, Historical Fiction and stories about adoption.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in 20th Century, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Southern Fiction

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Publication Info: Expected publication date: January 14, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press. Pre-Pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley. Other editions will be available at publication.

Summary: A year ago, Morgan Christopher never expected she’d be sitting in a jail cell, charged with a DUI when she wasn’t the driver. Her boyfriend ran off, leaving her to face the consequences. Now, her dream of a career in art shattered, she lives day to day in fear for her life.

Her nightmare gets an unexpected reprieve when she is visited by Lisa Williams, the daughter of the recently deceased artist, Jesse Jameson Williams. Before his death, Jesse had been known for his charitable support of young artists. He left a stipulation in his will that Morgan should restore a mural, and that it be done within a very short time period. Lisa was required to execute the will according to her father’s instructions or risk losing her full inheritance.

The mural was painted by an unknown artist named Anna Dale, who won a contest sponsored by the WPA in the 1940’s. Her mural, a depiction of life in a small southern town, was to have been hung in the Edenton, North Carolina Post office. It was never installed, but was found in very poor condition among Jesse’s belongings. As Morgan begins the restoration process, she discovers some very peculiar and disturbing objects in the painting and is determined to learn more about Anna Dale. The answers to her questions will shake up more than one family.

Comments: This book greatly exceeded my expectations. There are trends in publishing and one of the current ones is books with a version of Lies, Lying or Liar in the title. These are meant to grab attention, sometimes like a cheap trick. Big Lies in a Small Town is far, far better than its title.

The book takes place in two time periods — the 1940’s and present day. The author drew me into both with nary a misstep. The process of creating the original mural and its restoration are described with enough detail to feel realistic. The characters, both major and minor, are complex and compelling.

This is the first book I’ve read by Diane Chamberlain. I’m so sorry I’ve overlooked her previous novels. I’ll have to remedy that soon!

Highly recommended for readers of General Fiction, Historical Fiction (especially the 1940’s), Southern Fiction, Mysteries and those with an interest in art.

My rating: 5 STARS