Review: The Beach Trees by Karen White

June 1, 2011 General Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, NAL, Penguin, Review, Women's Fiction 14

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade; 1 edition (May 3, 2011)
ISBN-10: 9780451233073
Source: Publisher

When Julie was just twelve years old, her sister disappeared, never to be found.  Her once perfect family started to crumble.  Her mother became obsessed with searching for her daughter; when she died, Julie continued the search, keeping in regular contact with the officer on the case.

As an adult, working in a New York auction house, she meets Monica Guidry, a struggling artist from Mississippi.  Her depictions of her family draws Julie closer to her and they become close friends.

When Monica dies of a heart ailment she kept secret, she gives Julie custody of her five-year-old son, Beau, as well as a valuable payment and a piece of property in Biloxi, Mississippi.   Julie is devastated; it is like she’s lost another sister.  Biding by Monica’s wishes, she takes Beau back to Moncia’s hometown. But when Julie & Beau show up in Biloxi, they see that the property is destroyed, never rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina.

Julie is devastated; she’s given up everything she has to bring Beau back to the family that Monica always talked about, yet been estranged from for years. She is now left without a home and an adorable young boy in her custody.

Before her death, Monica instructed Julie to find Ray Von, an elderly woman who has been a friend of the family for decades.  Upon meeting Ray Von, she is given a portrait that Julie’s own great grandfather, Abe Holt, painted.  Julie reluctantly decides that he best course of action is to sell the painting in order to obtain enough money to get by.

Julie and Beau aren’t in the town long before a buyer for the painting is found: Monica’s maternal great grandmother, Aimee, and her brother Trey.  Within reason, they are a bit hesitant of Julie; they haven’t seen Monica in years and now that she has passed, they want Beau to become part of their lives.

After much trepidation, Julie agrees to stay in New Orleans, where the family now lives, while the family beach property, River Song, is rebuilt. During her stay, she discovers that the portrait she has inherited unlocks a long-hidden family secret and the likely cause of Monica’s estrangement from her family. She also learns that meeting Monica wasn’t as coincidental as she thought; her own family has ties to the Guidry family.

The Beach Trees is a heartwarming tale of family, love, loss & deceit. Julie, a Massachusetts native, can’t comprehend why the victims of Katrina’s wrath continue to rebuild. Why stay somewhere when you know it’s going to be destroyed yet again? White so eloquently portrays the hope in people of Mississippi and Louisiana, their strong-will and determination to continue to live in a town so often devastated by hurricanes.  It is then she sees the true meaning of family and of “home”, and discovers a family of her own.

The storyline is told in two parts: Julie in the present and Aimee in the 1950s.  These storylines are so intricately woven, yet also completely independent.  The parallels between the two are uncanny.  Both women lost someone so near and dear to their hearts.  The parallel disappearances in each of the families is a bit startling as well.  I’m all about mystery and family secrets in the novels I read.  I particularly enjoyed how White allowed the mystery to unfold, slowly revealing details along the way.

As with her other books, White’s characters are extremely detailed and well developed. One couldn’t help but fall for Julie and Aimee, both incredibly strong minded and independent women.  They made quite the duo; I appreciated how the past was revealed to Julie through stories Aimee told her.  The act of passing down stories among generations is quite compelling; so much history is held in memories.

The descriptions of the setting allows the reader to feel they are there: the sounds of of the ocean, the smell of the sea water, the tactile feeling of the sand between their toes.  White has the unique abilty to transport the reader into her story, despite their location.

There hasn’t been a book Karen White has written that I haven’t fallen head over heels for. I often say that, despite my “Northern” upbringing, that I must have been a Southern girl in another life.  White herself notes Karen notes that “searching for home brings me to the south again and again.”

I doubt I need to tell you this, but I can’t recommend this book enough. A perfect read for book clubs, it covers so many topics worth discussing. It would be a delightful summer read, one that leaves your heart warm and full of hope as you turn the final pages. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this book. Please be sure to check out the other stops on the tour.

14 Responses to “Review: The Beach Trees by Karen White”

  1. Bill Torgerson
    Twitter: Bill_Torgerson

    I’m going to pass this title along to my mom. I think it sounds perfect for her. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Pam

    This sounds sweet, maybe a little bit sad, too. I haven’t read anything by White, though I’m a little bit surprised I haven’t heard the name at all, yet.

  3. Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books
    Twitter: toofondofbooks

    I saw you tweeting about this yesterday — I’m smiling at your identity as a southern girl in another life 🙂

    Although I haven’t (yet) read anything by Karen White, I’m sure to be swept into the stories and characters when I do pick up one of her books!

  4. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I’ve only read one of White’s books, but I did love it. White wasn’t raised in the South, but she got here as fast as she could. I’m anxious to read this book.

  5. Laurel-Rain Snow
    Twitter: laurelrainsnow

    I have this one on my stacks…I, too, have loved every novel I’ve read by this author. I had to laugh at your remarks about perhaps being a Southern girl in another life. I’ve had this same feeling when reading White’s books…or those of some of the other Southern writers I admire. It’s a gift when the author can make us feel like we’re part of the settings and the lives described in the stories.

  6. Sheila (Bookjourney)
    Twitter: bookjourney

    I have heard such good things about this one and hope I get a chance to read it soon…. looks like it would be a good summer read!

  7. Kristi

    This sounds like something I would enjoy. I am a big fan of books with multiple narrators. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads

    I’m so glad I picked up a copy of this at BEA (thanks to your recommendation). I love the two time periods and the setting and your description of the characters..

  9. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    I’m a Northern girl through and through but this book sounds absolutely wonderful. I have yet to read a book that deals with the aftermath of a hurricane, so this may have to be my first.

    Thanks for being on the tour Jenn. I’m so glad this book lived up to your expectations.

  10. Sheila DeChantal
    Twitter: bookjourney

    Ok… I always crack up when I think I need to read a review and discover I already have 🙂 LOL

    That just tells me I really need to read the book!

  11. Susan

    Thank you for your review. I am planning on reading Beach Tree this week. The publisher sent me a copy to read. I have never read her books. I am looking forward to reading after your review.
    Thank you so much.