June 11, 2019
Blurb: Late August is a beautiful time on the Southern coast—the peach trees are ripe, the ocean is warm, and the sweet tea is icy. A perfect time to enjoy the rocking chairs on the porch. But beneath the calm surface bubbles a threat: it’s also peak hurricane season.
When a hurricane threatens the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, an eclectic group of evacuees flees for the farm of their friends Grace and Charles Phillips in North Carolina: the Phillips’s daughter Moira and her rescue dogs, famed equestrian Javier Angel de la Cruz, makeup artist Hannah McLain, horse breeder Gerda Klug and her daughter Elise, and island resident Cara Rutledge. They bring with them only the few treasured possessions they can fit in their vehicles. Strangers to all but the Phillips, they must ride out the storm together.
During the course of one of the most challenging weeks of their lives, relationships are put to the test as the evacuees are forced to confront the unresolved issues they have with themselves and with each other. But as the storm passes, they realize that what really matters isn’t what they brought with them to the mountains. Rather, it’s what they’ll take with them once they leave.
SASCHA DARLINGTON’S REVIEW
I have been a Mary Alice Monroe reader for years, ever since I found one of her books at the library that, though fiction, dealt with ecology and the natural aspects of the beach ecosystem. This nature child was hooked.
The Summer Guests also interweaves natural aspects but its primary focus is on the people, horses, and dogs evacuating when a high intensity hurricane is predicted to hit along the southeast coast. As such, The Summer Guests is probably more episodic than the typical Mary Alice Monroe novel as it moves between the POVs of at least a half-dozen people. Typically this head jumping can be disconcerting, but only once did I find it irritating.
What usually occurs in a novel like this with many central characters is that you have a bad guy/girl. There isn’t in The Summer Guests. The bad girl is hurricane Noelle, which wreaks havoc. While some of the characters are prickly, they are very human. And, almost every character changes by the end, having a revelation that prods them onto a new life course or frame of mind.
I found The Summer Guests to be an engrossing read. I loved learning about the relationships between riders and horses, and I enjoyed the dramas and fun between the characters.
Besides nature, the novel also delved into another of my favorite things: the magical. Even more fun is when a magical event happens to probably the most pragmatic person in the novel and provides a jumping point for her character change.
Likewise, I loved that Grace’s daughter, Moira, has an open connection to animals, meaning that she can communicate with them on another level. I just love this stuff!
By the end of The Summer Guests, I was satisfied, although I would like very much to know what happens as this ensemble of characters moves on and return to their own worlds, if they achieve their dreams and goals or simply find a more fulfilling way of life.
I highly recommend The Summer Guests for nature lovers, horse lovers, Mary Alice Monroe fans, and readers who like women’s fiction that involves all of those things.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 butterflies and a ladybug out of 5 butterflies
Callout: Anne, I thought of you and Biasini often as I read this book. It talks a lot of the Florida and North Carolina horse world.