The pace of Beth Webb Hart’s Moon Over Edisto builds slowly, meandering among her characters in a manner befitting the leisurely cadence of its coastal South Carolina setting. Artist and art professor Julia Bennett has been far removed from her Southern home for years, having retreated to New York almost 20 years ago, after her father left his wife and family for Julia’s college roommate and best friend, Marney. The wounds are still raw for the Bennett women, especially Julia. Panic attacks plague her from the story’s outset, a situation made worse by a surprise visit from Marney. Now widowed, Marney has lung cancer and needs an operation—and someone to look after her three children, Julia’s half siblings, after the surgery. Julia is the unlikely (and unwilling) choice, but her reluctant “yes” sends her on a painful and ultimately healing journey.
Back in South Carolina, Julia begins to deal with the past alongside the pull of the future she’s working so hard to build, even as her mother and sister face a similar battle. It comes as a surprise to them all when Julia begins to open her heart to her half siblings, particularly young Etta, who shares the same artistic skill as Julia and their father. Hart captures the voice of the winsome yet mysteriously silent Etta in occasional chapters told from her perspective.
Hart paints her characters vividly and excels in her minute detail of the Low Country, elevating the place to the status of a character through evocative descriptions that draw in her protagonist—and her readers as well.