Nothing says summer like a grand old house on the ocean and family reunited for a season of memories, both old and new. The second book of Mary Alice Monroe’s Lowcountry Summer Trilogy delivers just that, continuing the story of Marietta Muir—otherwise known as Mamaw—and her three granddaughters, who have gathered together at Sea Breeze, the family home on Sullivan Island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.
Together with Lucille, who is now more friend than housekeeper after fifty years, Mamaw is determined to straighten out Dora, Carson and Harper (each named for a famous Southern writer) before she finally puts Sea Breeze on the market. But her granddaughters are as individual as the shells on the beach; they are half sisters each with a different mother and a shared father, Mamaw’s now deceased son Parker. The only thing these women have shared, aside from Muir blood, is the summers they spent as children together at Sea Breeze. And as Mamaw heads into the twilight of her years, she wants to ensure that the bonds between her “summer girls” are as strong as sisters’ should be.
It’s a big task, and Monroe deftly explores the unique problems each woman faces. Carson is out of work and out of money; Harper has all the money in the world and no one to love; and Dora is facing a divorce, the sale of her home and an autistic son who challenges what she knows about parenting every day. These are modern women addressing the prickly questions of identity and purpose in today’s world, a world very different from the one their grandmother knew as a young bride.
Is there room in her life for a new relationship? Is there room in her heart for much more than weariness?
All of the characters undergo changes during the course of the book, but in this second volume of the trilogy the spotlight is definitely on Dora. Raised in strict Southern tradition—think cotillions, sororities, big weddings and the Junior League—Dora faces a confusing period of self-evaluation as her marriage collapses. Her stately Charleston home will have to be sold—her husband’s already moved into a condo—and her entire way of life has been called into question. Her clear-cut job as a homemaker may have expanded when she turned to homeschooling to meet her autistic son's needs, but neither of those roles draws an income. On top of it all, a health scare reminds her of the fragility of her own existence and prompts her to undertake a new routine to drop some pounds and regain her energy and strength.
Is there room in her life for a new relationship? Is there room in her heart for much more than weariness? It’s a question Dora must explore as an old boyfriend resurfaces, reawakening parts of herself she thought long buried. Her sisters and Mamaw are there to encourage her, of course, but Dora handles her budding relationship with Devlin Cassell with refreshing independence as she navigates body-image demons, the truth about her own needs and what place a man should be given in her life.
The novel builds to a literally thunderous conclusion as a tropical storm heads toward Charleston and each of the women stands at a crossroads in her life—and a new sorrow is waiting with the dawn. Written with convincing Southern charm and thoughtfulness, The Summer Wind explores the bonds of sisterhood and the challenges of modern womanhood with warmth and genuine affection.
Amy Garvey is a freelance editor and the author of several romances and two novels for young adults.