Mary Alice Monroe’s Latest Book Focuses on Family & Friends On IOP During Pandemic
By: Jeff Walker, Book Review
Few Lowcountry authors catch the essence of family sagas, wrapped in history of Charleston, with the scenic backdrop of the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, as well as Mary Alice Monroe. Continuing in her ‘Beach House’ series, Monroe’s latest book ‘The Summer of Lost and Found’, picks up a year after ‘On Ocean Boulevard’, following the lives of the Rutledge and Prescott families, with the primary focus on twenty-something Linnea Rutledge, and her Aunt Cara, two women wrestling with longtime friendships, as well as life and death scenarios during the onset of a worldwide pandemic.
For more than a decade Monroe has been chronicling the joys and heartaches of the Rutledge’s and Prescott’s, woven together over three generations, with personal refuge found in their cottages and summer homes on Charleston’s beach communities. A New York Times best selling author, Monroe finds solace in detailing the sights and sounds that resonate from the beach. Whether it’s the overgrown dunes, the wet sand, the roar of the waves, or the sea turtles, Monroe creates an idyllic picture with her words, keeping readers mesmerized as the family drama in ‘Summer of Lost and Found’ unfolds.
Furloughed due to COVID from her dream job at the South Carolina Aquarium, an uncertain Linnea discovers she has too much time on her hands, especially now that she, her former beau John, and her more recent love interest Gordon are all within a stones throw of each other on the Isle of Palms. Will she be able to rekindle the romance she and Gordon shared, when he first came over from Great Britain last summer to do research work on the island? Or like the pandemic, is there reason for caution.
With all the protocols of the pandemic still uncertain, and with Cara’s husband David returning from an overseas business trip, Cara asks Linnea to take care of her six year old daughter Hope, a request Linnea cannot refuse, since she is living rent free in a home Cara owns. Enter John (son of Cara’s best friend Emmi), back from the west coast, forced like many to quarantine before he can help attend to Flo (Emmi’s aging mother).
Will Linnea re-visit and forgive John, the very man who broke her heart after years together? Is the fact that John is living right next door, too close for comfort, especially with Gordon due in anytime. Not certain whether to have any communication with John, Linnea as does Hope finds pleasure in notes in the form of paper airplanes, which eventually lead to daily treasure hunts.
Combine all that Linnea is undertaking, with the fact she has invited her fellow furloughed co-worker Anna to live with her, creating its own dynamic. When Linnea’s brother Cooper asks to move in, unexpected sparks fly between the new room mates. Three young adults sharing a tiny abode, with an impressionable young girl and a new puppy.
Is there space for Gordon in Linnea’s bedroom when his ten day isolation ends, let alone her life with her thoughts running full tilt towards John. The plot thickens when free wheeling English socialite Pandora shows up on the beach, putting Linnea on the defensive, suspecting Pandora still has affections for Gordon.
Cara’s love life is not in question, however David’s health is? Couple that with Hope having to live across the street, and Cara’s world is turned upside down. Not to mention she and Emmi’s lifelong friendship has become strained, after Cara suggests Flo would be better taken care of at a elderly facility. Adding fuel to the fire, Linnea’s parents (Julia & Palmer) are not pleased with Cara’s indifferent approach to their kid’s living arrangements.
A fishing trip meant to bond the two young suitors goes awry, eventually leaving egos and faces bruised as John and Gordon fight for Linnea’s affection. Still many questions abound. Will a self designated pandemic free circle of friends, combined with a summer project, culminating in a holiday party bring the dozen characters together? Through all Linnea’s indecision and hesitancy, Aunt Cara’s sagely advice surfaces, ‘listen to your heart’ and ‘nothing is more important than family’.
Monroe invests deeply in her characters, and with each new book it shows. Written in real time during the 2020 pandemic, ‘The Summer of Lost and Found’ speaks volumes. It’s a story of two families bound together by more than just time, rather by love, loss, and by small everyday victories.
‘The Summer of Lost and Found’ is an ideal light-hearted summertime read, perfect for when lying at the pool, enjoying a fruity cocktail, or sun-bathing on the beach with sweet tea in hand. A breath of fresh air after a long isolation. Monroe’s ‘Beach House’ series (now seven books strong) are as welcome in the summer, as is the smell of the ocean morning air, and the feel of warm sand under your feet. Monroe paints landscapes with words, and take readers on a whimsical journey in all of her books.
Aside from a new puppy to cheer up Hope, and a bonding moment over sea turtles hatching, Monroe’s latest book is a departure from animal life she primarily centers her stories around. This time out with the pandemic front page news, Monroe opted to explore the issues family and friends faced during isolation, including loss of income, and health concerns. Very smart and very timely.
Although it’s not necessary to read her prior offerings, it does help fill in the bigger picture. Among Monroe’s endearing qualities, is how she revisits the characters from previous books just enough to set the tone for her most recent. To discover more on Mary Alice Monroe or the entire ‘Beach House’ books visit her website at https://maryalicemonroe.com/
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