Sue Monk Kidd's follow-up to her bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees, is a poignant and beautifully composed novel about a woman's transformative experience at middle age. Atlanta housewife Jessie Sullivan finds herself face to face with the past when a strange family emergency occurs. After her mother, Nellie, cuts off her own finger, Jessie leaves her husband and daughter in Georgia to look after her. Traveling to Egret Island off the South Carolina coast, where she grew up, Jessie tends to Nellie, who 33 years after the fact is still haunted by the death of her husband. On Egret Island, Jessie begins to reconsider her life, from her marriage to the staid, sensible Hugh, to her growing need for independence. Personal fulfillment becomes an issue for Jessie when she meets Brother Thomas, a gentle lawyer who has decided to become a Benedictine monk. Jessie finds herself increasingly attracted to Thomas, and as her time on Egret Island progresses, it becomes a search for identity and fulfillment, a spiritual quest that changes her life forever. Kidd writes with sensitivity and insight about family, marriage and the female quest for satisfaction. She also skillfully weaves elements of religion and myth into the novel, to produce a work that's especially rich and mature.
A reading group guide is included in the book.