The Summer Wind is the second book in Monroe’s Lowcountry Summer trilogy, following the New York Timesbestselling The Summer Girls.
This series is a poignant and heartwarming story of three half-sisters and their grandmother, who is determined to help them rediscover their southern roots and family bonds.
It’s midsummer and Eudora, nicknamed Dora, is staying at Sea Breeze, the family’s ancestral home on Sullivan’s Island. For years, Dora has played the role of the perfect wife and mother in a loveless marriage. Now her husband filed for divorce, her child is diagnosed with autism, and her house is on the market. Dora’s facade collapses under the weight of her grief and she suffers “broken heart syndrome.” Mamaw and the girls rally around Dora—but it’s up to Dora to heal herself as she spends the summer prowling the beach, discovering the secrets of the island and her heart.
This is a summer of discovery for all the women of Sea Breeze. Carson returns from Florida to face life-changing decisions, Lucille confronts a health scare, and an unexpected visitor has Harper reconsidering her life’s direction.
A special thank you to Threshold, Pocket Books and NetGalley for ARC in exchange for an honest review.
THE SUMMER WIND is beautifully written and captivating,Mary Alice Monroe’s best work thus far----a powerful trilogy, of three grown step-sisters, from different walks of life, a loving sixth-generation, southern Charlestonian grandmother, a wise and loyal housekeeper, and a charismatic dolphin who touches the lives of a troubled boy and his aunt.
As guilt and healing are constant themes of the poignant book, these experiences are apparent in each of the character’s lives, as well as a courageous Dolphin.
Being a fan of Mary Alice Monroe for a number of years, she is a master at skillfully weaving into her narrative, significant environmental topics, blending them into the lives of her flawed characters---as they mature, learn, and find healing from life’s lessons and experiences.
Monroe’s theme of humans and animals--sharing a connection, is evident throughout THE SUMMER WIND--with Nate, Carlson, Delphine; Cara/Sea Turtles, and Taylor/Jax/Thor. Monroe’s books demonstrate a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting animals, and the environment in which they live. Each one being unique--speaking to readers’ hearts, with richly developed characters, you will not soon forget, even after the story ends.
I loved THE SUMMER GIRLS (#1) in the Lowcountry Trilogy, and was delighted to attain an advanced reading copy ofTHE SUMMER WIND (#2), to catch up with these lovable characters: Delphine (Dolphin), Nate, Carson, Dora, Harper, Lucille, and MaMaw.
As these three half-sisters reunite in this alluring ecological setting of the Lowcountry of SC, at the historical Sea Breeze home, with stunning views and tranquil waters, filled with summer memories with their wise grandmother Mamaw and side kick, Lucille, (African American housekeeper, which is at the center of the fun); her utmost desire, is for her three granddaughters to rediscover their southern roots, family bonds, and connect with one another, even through life storms. Each have a common link, an alcoholic father, Parker, now deceased (MaMaw’s son, a “want to be author” who named each daughter after a famous author)—all with different mothers.
To pick up from Book One, MaMaw (Marietta) celebrated her eightieth birthday, alluring the girls home before putting the home on the market, in order to plan to go into an assisted living facility. She threatened to cut them of the will if they did not spend the entire summer with her. (of course, her motives--not all selfish, as each of the girls needed a kick in the butt and some good LowCountry healing).
CARSON (33) living in California, a free spirit, surfer and water lover, (runs at the mention of trouble or problems), recently lost her job, was pleased to spend the summer rent-free on the island. Readers were all delighted to find how she worked miracles, finding a connection with her nephew, Nate (Dora’s autism son), sharing her love of dolphins and the ocean.
Carson, does not want to get too close to anyone, with the fear of getting hurt. Even though she does meet Blake, an environmentalist and Taylor, a veteran helping others, Carson is worried she is becoming an alcoholic, so decides to give up the drink and focus her energies helping save Dolphins, and Nate, while trying to find her way.
In this book, she is taking a road trip to the Florida Keys with Nate, to help him heal his guilt (and hers), over the terrible accident involving the much loved dolphin, Delphine. They will spend time at a program working with children and dolphins, while connecting with their much loved and missed, Delphine which was at death’s door at the end of the last book.
DORA (36) SC southern belle, in the midst of a divorce, was easily persuaded to stay at Sea Breeze, with her son Nate (Asperger’s), while repairs were being completed on her house in Summerville. She is still married to the awful Cal, we learned to despise in the first book.
Dora is overwhelmed, uptight, and is experiencing heart problems. She has to chill, as always trying to be the perfect belle, with high expectations – finds herself in need of some R&R, and needs to take care of herself with the heavy demands of her son, Nate. (plus pressure she adds to herself)
Yum…The handsome ex-boyfriend Delvin fits the bill (loved this guy), perfectly, as she finds some romance, laid back summer fun, and gets herself in shape with proper eating, exercise, and allows her sister, Harper help guide her with a much needed makeover and a new outlook/attitude.
For Dora, the winds of change force her to cope with the aftermath of a messy divorce. As she lets go of her façade of the perfect wife and mother role, she discovers a renewed purpose and then she can move on with her future (let’s hope with Delvin- as loved him!)
HARPER (28) New Yorker…of course, was the one sister, not so easily convinced to return to the Lowcountry, calling it blackmail. She is most sophisticated, well-traveled, having the best education, and is an heiress with plenty of money. However, not so happy, until she discovers she loves the Lowcountry and her southern roots, finding solace, quiet, and time fulfill her passion of writing.
At the same time, she can relate to Nate with her computer knowledge (less talking and socializing, more online interaction), as well as assisting her sister Dora with gardening, creating organization, and a new makeover. She has lived a rigid life at the hands of her demanding mother, and loves spending time with MaMaw and being able to reflect through writing with freedom of expression. For Harper, a summer of self-reflection leads her to the revealing the weight of the expectations placed on her as the heir to her family’s fortune. I related to Harper the most (minus the wealth), as neat, organized, creative, reading, writing, and love of solitude.
As a rough island storm brews and a health crisis threatens a beloved member of the family, the summer girls’ bond is strengthened, just as Mamaw had planned, for a poignant summer on Sullivan Island.
The theme of healing is dominant throughout the book, as Dora heals from her heart condition, and her miserable and unhappy life, while the dolphin Delphine heals from her injuries. There are many parallels of letting go of the past and moving on to new experiences. Guilt also plays a huge role, as each character is suffering from some sort of guilt, whether it be the accident involving Delphine, the care of a specially challenged child, past family history, or a bad marriage, and how each one of them learns to accept.
Each of the girls, plus Nate mature with transformations from the last book, which will forever change the course of their lives. It is difficult to say which girl changed the most, possibly Dora, as her unhappiness was more apparent and the transformation was physical, as well as psychological.
Unearthing the slave manacles is a great tie in, as the manacles represent how each of their lives has been shackled by different elements with the opportunity to reflect, let go, and move on past these obstacles which stand in their way of happiness.
Fans of southern writers: Wendy Wax, Karen White, Dorothea Benton Frank, Patti Callahan Henry, and Mary Kay Andrews will appreciate THE SUMMER WIND—each with their own unique style, and a common love of the south.
Would highly recommend reading THE SUMMER GIRLS,prior to reading THE SUMMER WIND (both winners), in order to really get to know the characters and the background.
This book was very special to me, having lived in the Florida Keys (Key Largo), for several years, while working with several real estate projects. I had the opportunity to visit the Dolphin Cove, a marine education and dolphin swim facility located in sunny Key Largo, Florida. Swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove is like no other dolphin encounter, available to the public throughout the year and a great addition for families on their vacation- having referred many visitors to this beautiful natural lagoon.
I would also recommend if you are in the area for Dolphins Cove, travel a little further south to Islamorada, to the Theater of the Sea, which provides a wonderful home for animals while sharing them with in ways that inspire awareness and sensitivity towards animals, the environment, and conservation issue.