For as long as she can remember, Ava Whalen has struggled with a sense of not belonging, and now, at thirty-five, she still feels stymied by her family. Then she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier, and thinks her days of loneliness are behind her. After a whirlwind romance, they impulsively elope, and Ava moves to Matthew’s ancestral home on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia.
But after the initial excitement, Ava is surprised to discover that true happiness continues to elude her. There is much she doesn’t know about Matthew, including the mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death. And her new home seems to hold as many mysteries and secrets as her new husband. Feeling adrift, Ava throws herself into uncovering Matthew’s family history and that of the island, not realizing that she has a connection of her own to this place—or that her obsession with the past could very well destroy her future. -- NAL
Big surprise here -- I recently read another book that takes place at the beach! This time it's SEA CHANGE by Karen White. I decided to pick up this book because it's been awhile since I've read and reviewed a Karen White novel (and I always like her writing), but also because this book seemed to be a little different than the typical beach book! It was part mystery, part supernatural tale, part historical fiction, and part love story; and I really liked it.
SEA CHANGE tells the story of Ava, a woman who is on the brink of her new life! After a whirlwind romance with child psychologist Matthew, she marries him and moves to his home in St. Simons Island -- away from her family. Once she is there, she discovers that she doesn't know Matthew as well as she thought; and she learns that there is a mystery surrounding the death of his first wife.
While Ava hoped that she had finally found her place in the world with Matthew and St. Simons Island, she realizes that all of her husband's secrets make her feel like even more of an outsider. She begins investigating her husband's family history and the island's history, and she discovers that she has a strange connection of her own to the island. Ava searches to find the answers to all of her questions and hopes that she can save her marriage and herself.
I was pleasantly surprised by SEA CHANGE. Not that I wasn't expecting to like this Karen White novel, but it did have a supernatural element, and I tend to shy away from these types of story lines. I will still claim that I don't love supernatural in my stories, but I think Ms. White managed to make it work in this novel. I actually "bought" it rather than trying to find reasons why it didn't make sense -- I suspended my belief, if you will. And as a result, it was an effective way to explain why Ava had such strong intuition about Matthew (despite what his behavior was saying.)
Another thing that worked in SEA CHANGE was how Ms. White told this story. I really appreciated that there were elements of mystery woven into the story. Not only were there secrets surrounding Matthew and the death of his first wife, but there was also a mystery about the island and its past. In addition, there was even a mystery about Ava's past and her family. One of the main reasons I kept turning the pages was to discover these secrets and have some sort of resolution to the mysteries.
Ms. White also used a variety of effective techniques to tell this story. I liked that Ava's chapters were written in Ava's voice because I thought it gave me an inside look into her thoughts and made me better appreciate her character, but I also enjoyed the flashback/historical chapters which were written in Pamela's voice. Additionally, I liked that there were a few sections written in Ava's mother's voice since she obviously knew some secrets about Ava and her early childhood.
Without a doubt, SEA CHANGE would make an interesting book club pick. The book has some very interesting characters, but it also touches upon some relevant issues. There is a reading guide available with twelve thought-provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include secrets, love, marriage, parent/child relationships, trust, and intuition. There are also some questions concerning the setting and the way Ms. White wrote this story.
Karen White has a huge following and it's no surprise to me. She is a wonderful storyteller and SEA CHANGE is very entertaining novel.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.