web analytics

Synopsis:

Monica Guidry, a New Orleans native, escaped to New York City and spent the last ten years of her life there. She met Julie Holt at an exhibition of Julie’s great-grandfather, Abe Holt’s, paintings. The two women grew as close as sisters, and when Monica became desperately ill due to a congenital heart defect, Julie cared for her and her young son, Beau. Tragically, Monica died while waiting for a heart transplant.

In her will, Monica not only designated Julie to serve as Beau’s guardian; she bequeathed her interest in her family’s beloved vacation home, River Song, situated on the shore in Biloxi, Mississippi, to Julie. Monica had sketched River Song for Julie, and told her so many stories about happy summers spent there with her family and intricate details about the house itself, that Julie feels practically as though she had been there herself.

Julie Holt has been searching for her sister, Chelsea, since she disappeared in 1993. Julie has always carried tremendous guilt about her little sister’s disappearance because her mother asked her to watch Chelsea while she ran to the store. In the blink of an eye, Chelsea vanished. Julie’s father and brother came to believe that Chelsea was dead. But to her dying day, Julie’s mother never gave up hope and neither has Julie. She has continued to scour the internet for leads and remained in touch with the detective assigned to the case, passing on any small tidbit of information that might develop into a lead.

But when she lost Chelsea, Julie also lost any sense of permanence in her life. She lacks the ability to plan for the future, amasses collections of random items — which she later discards or sells without sentimental attachment — and has not felt connected to a place that she can truly identify as home.

As the story opens, Julie has quit her job in order to care for Beau, purchased a minivan from the Reagan era, and, along with five-year-old Beau, embarked upon a journey to Biloxi where she expects to find the beach house for which the attorney handling Monica’s estate gave her the key. Unfortunately, all that Monica finds is the shell of River Song. It was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, a fact Monica obviously did not know.

What else will Monica find in Biloxi and New Orleans? As she becomes acquainted with Monica’s brother, Trey, and the woman Monica referred to as her grandmother, Miss Aimee, Julie realizes that the Guidry family has many secrets. Determined to find out why Monica left the home she loved so abruptly, severed connections with her family, and never returned, Julie finds herself examining the forces that have shaped her own life, and realizing that she must make decisions about her future — and Beau’s.

Review:

Author
is an epic novel about family secrets and the way in which our family histories impact our personalities, the choices we make, and our motivations for those choices. Set against the backdrop of the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, best-selling author Karen White explores what it means to consider a place home and how Julie eventually learns that rebuilding following disaster is not, as she initially opines, “shortsighted” or “egotistical.”

At the outset, Julie is a lost soul. In the years since her sister disappeared, Julie has essentially lived her life in suspended animation, going through the motions, poised for her life to begin again when Chelsea’s whereabouts are learned. She was not prepared to become the full-time guardian of a five-year-old boy, but is determined to ensure that Monica’s wishes are carried out, especially in light of Monica’s estrangement from her family.

En route to New Orleans and the Guidry home, Monica stops at the home of Ray Von, the aged woman who was employed by the Guidrys for many years. Ray Von holds a package for Julie, delivered for safekeeping by Monica — a portrait of Caroline Guidry painted by none other than Julie’s great-grandfather, Abe Holt. It is valuable and Julie determines to sell it in order to earn enough money to support herself and Beau until she can decide whether she is going to remain in Biloxi and permit Beau to develop a relationship with Monica’s family. It is the painting that brings Julie face to face with Trey and Miss Aimee, who claim that Monica stole the painting. But why would she do that?

This Katrina tree sculpture of a dolphin is mentioned several times in The Beach Trees.
Beau is an adorable, bright, but damaged little boy who carries his mother’s red knit hat with him everywhere and sucks his thumb. Julie is extremely protective of him and not ready to entrust him to Monica’s family, even though he is the mirror image of his Uncle Trey and the two instantly bond. Julie is also drawn to Trey, despite her misgivings and suspicions. After all, he is so much like Monica and they have a lot in common. Both have lost sisters and, as Julie learns in the ensuing months, so much more. Worse, Julie learns that Trey actually holds a one-half interest in River Song, so they become reluctant partners in rebuilding it.

The story is told in alternating first-person narratives. Julie describes her journey. In conversation with Julie, Miss Aimee tells her own life story, gradually revealing the mysteries of the Guidry family. Miss Aimee tells Julie at the outset that they are going to tell each other their stories in hopes that they will find the key to why Monica left and never returned. The two women’s stories are intriguing, with Miss Aimee describing her childhood summers at her grandmother’s house which was next door to the Guidry home in New Orleans, the mysterious murder of her mother, and her friendship with the two Guidry brothers, Wes and Gary, that would ultimately define her life.

There are many parallels between the devastation of the Gulf Coast and protagonist Julie Holt’s life. It was necessary to delve into the realities of the despair faced by those who have lost so much. . . . [A]s Julie meets the survivors of Katrina, she begins to learn that great loss isn’t necessarily the end.
~ Author Karen White

Author Karen White seamlessly weaves the two narratives into a cohesive mystery, set against the backdrop of not just Hurricane Katrina, but also 1969’s Hurricane Camille, which also brought devastation to the area, although not on nearly the same scale as Katrina. Still, Camille significantly damaged River Song and it was Miss Aimee who rebuilt it, so she encourages Monica to do the same now. White brings authenticity to her fictional story through references to actual events and places, including Beach Boulevard in Biloxi, Mississippi where the fictional River Song is located. In the steet’s median, marine-related figures have been sculpted into dozens of standing dead trees, victims of the saltwater storm surge of Katrina. They stand in silent testament to the resilience of the people of Biloxi, evidencing that something beautiful can be born even of a disaster as immense as Katrina. As Julie comes to understand the Guidry family history, she also appreciates the beauty of the Katrina trees and what they signify to the survivors of Katrina.

The Beach Trees is engrossing, with each successive chapter’s revelations heightening reader curiosity about the Guidry family’s truth and the reasons why Monica fled. In the hands of a less capable writer, the family saga could easily have devolved in melodrama, but White never allows the story to become maudlin or trite. Attribute the story’s believeability to the fact that White conducted extensive research into her topic, and her characters are based upon composites of the stories of real-life Katrina survivors. Julie and Miss Aimee are surrounded by a compelling cast of supporting characters, including the two Guidry brothers, both of whom loved Miss Aimee and both of whom she loved. Particularly poignant and moving is the story of Carol Sue, who lost her husband, Trey’s law partner, to Katrina. His body was not found for two weeks and in one particularly memorable scene she explains to Julie that she understands what it is like to wait for news about a loved one, praying each day for a desired result. The result is a memorable tale of how one woman learned, through profound loss, to let go of her sorrow, heal, and rebuild her life. Just like the residents of New Orleans and Biloxi have rebuilt their beautiful cities and their lives — never forgetting, but moving on.

I read The Beach Trees in conjunction with the 2011 Read ‘n’ Review, Outdo Yourself, and Spring Reading Thing 2011 Challenges.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of The Beach Trees free of charge from the author in conjunction with the TLC Book Tours review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Enter to Win a Copy of The Beach Trees

One lucky reader, selected at random, will receive a copy of The Beach Trees, graciously provided by the author.

Mandatory Entry:

Post a comment explaining what you find most intriguing about the storyline of The Beach Trees, being sure to include your email address (for notification and delivery purposes).

Bonus Entries:

Post a separate comment for each bonus entry!

  • Become a follower on Google Friend Connect or confirm that you are an existing follower by leaving the name under which you follow in a comment.
  • Follow Colloquium on Facebook Networked Blogs. (Note: Asking to be my friend on Facebook does not count as following.)
  • Follow me on Twitter — be sure to leave your Twitter name in the comment
  • Subscribe to Colloquium via RSS or Email and confirm your subscription
  • Tweet about this giveaway and leave the link to your tweet in a comment!
  • Post this giveaway on Facebook and leave the link to your post in a comment!

Sorry, but the book can only be shipped to a United States or Canadian address (no P.O. box).


The comment posted by Connie Shelor was selected at random and a copy of The Beach Trees is en route to Connie!

Thanks to all who participated!

104 Comments

  1. Tiffany D.

    Karen White is one of my favorite authors. I would love to read this book because I loved stories about friendship and also a good mystery. Not only does this book have both, but it is by a favorite author. I know I am going to love it. Thank you very much for the chance at winning!

    jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

  2. Tiffany D.

    I follow on GFC as Tiffany Drew

    jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

  3. Tiffany D.

    I follow on Networked Blogs as Tiffany Drew

    jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

  4. Tiffany D.

    I follow on Twitter as @enterthedrew

    jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

  5. Tiffany D.

    I am an email subscriber

    jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

  6. I love that the story is about the region I am from, New Orleans.

  7. How horrible it must be to loose someone especially if you felt you were responsible for the individual. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway

    dianad8008 AT gmail DOT com

  8. Krystal Larson

    Family mysteries are always fun to read about and decipher, I also liked how you said something beautiful can come out of destruction-would love to read more about that.

  9. I find the whole dynamic of the book interesting – why Monica left so abruptly, why Julie never attaches herself to anything – it all sounds so intriguing!

    Margay1122ATaolDOTcom

  10. Laura H.

    Thanks for another great giveaway! I am most intrigued by the subplot involving Julie’s missing sister and how it fits in with all other other subplots.

    BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

  11. Laura H.

    Already follow via GFC (MamaHendo3).

    BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

  12. Laura H.

    Already follow via NB (Laura G. Henderson).

    BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

  13. Laura H.

    Already Twitter follower @MamaHendo3.

    BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

  14. Laura H.

    Already e-mail subscriber.

    BornajhawkATaolDOTcom

  15. What a wonderful book. I read a lot of urban fantasy paranormal type books and there are times when it is just too much and I want something a little more meaty. I have shy’d away from books that have had something to do with Katrina because it makes me sad and when I read I want to escape and not wallow. Ms. White’s book, however, sounds like one that will face the sadness and hardships, as well as embrace the friendships, joys, and laughter – WHO WOULD NOT WANT TO READ SUCH A WONDERFUL STORY. Thanks for the chance to win the giveaway and I will be looking it up regardless, although my budget really blesses you if I win.

    dz59001[at]gmail[dot]com

  16. mamabunny13

    What I find intriguing about the story first of all is that anyone could be brave enough to go on a road trip with a five year old! lol I like that the story is mysterious with family secrets.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  17. mamabunny13

    I follow via gfc – mamabunny13
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  18. mamabunny13

    I follow you on networked blogs – mamabunny shelor
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  19. mamabunny13

    email subscriber
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  20. mamabunny13

    I follow you on twitter @mamabunny13
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  21. mamabunny13

    tweet @mamabunny13
    htpp://twitter.com/#!/mamabunny13/status/69835672202125312
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  22. Samantha Cheng

    Oh gosh I absolutely adore books that have someone die and then someone else is left to figure out all the secrets! I mean, not that I’m sadistic or anything; I feel bad for Monica’s death but it’s necessary. So 😀 Thanks for the giveaway!!!

  23. The family dynamics, the mystery of the missing sister, and the backdrop of the Katrina damage make this book sound very intriguing.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

  24. Samantha Cheng

    Oh gosh I just love it when someone dies and then someone else is left to figure out the secrets cuz the dead can’t talk. I mean, not that I’m sadistic or anything; I feel bad about Monica’s death but it’s necessary!!! So :DDDD Thanks for the giveaway!!

  25. Samantha Cheng

    I subscribe to your emails 😀 That’s how I found out about this giveaway!! <333

  26. i’m a huge fan of karen white’s novels…this book sounds fabulous. thanks for the chance to read it 🙂

  27. Colleen Turner

    I can’t help but love a story about a child who, having lost his parent, finds love in the adults left behind to take care of him. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

  28. Colleen Turner

    I am a GFC follower (Colleen Turner).

  29. Colleen Turner

    I am a Networked Blogs follower (Colleen Turner).

  30. I have a degree in Psychology and the family unit and its dynamics
    have always fascinated me. Also, our upbringing and how it effects
    our future decisions in life is fascinating…
    Many thanks, Cindi

  31. I follow you via Google Friend Connect!
    Again, many thanks to you…Cindi
    windycindy

  32. Also, I follow Colloquium via Networked Blogs…
    Thanks bunches!
    Cindi

  33. I am also an email subscriber to Colloquium.
    Many thanks to you!
    Cindi

  34. Michelle C

    I love novels that are based on some realistic events and explore relationships, so this sounds really interesting to me! Thanks for the great review and the chance to win!
    mrsmchappell at gmail dot com

  35. Michelle C

    Following with Google Friend Connect
    mrsmchappell at gmail dot com

  36. Michelle C

    Following you on twitter as mrsmchappell
    mrsmchappell at gmail dot com

  37. Michelle C

    Subscribed via RSS feed {Google Reader}.
    mrsmchappell at gmail dot com

  38. I’m intrigued by the author’s inclusion of Hurricane Camille and the comparisons she makes between it and Hurricane Katrina. Sounds like a book I’ll be picking up for myself!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  39. First of all, the title and book cover lured me in. But when I started reading the synopsis and your review – I am intrigued. At first you think it’s another “Beaches”-type, but it looks like it gets into the nitty-gritty about relationships and family. I would love to read this book this summer. Please count me in!

    (soriano.renee@gmail.com)

  40. What’s most intriguing about The Beach Trees for me is Julie’s story and how the Guidry’s family secret and Monica’s story will help her to figure out her own issues and what’s been preventing her from creating a great life for herself. I’m interested in the mystery Julie unravels and what it tells her.

    Thank you for another great giveaway!

    Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

  41. I’m an email subscriber to your blog (Aimala02@yahoo.com)

    Aimala127(at)gmail(dot)com

  42. Anita Yancey

    What I find most intriguing about the storyline is how Julie is still hunting for her sister Chelsea after so many years. Love to read this book. Please enter me. Thanks!

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

  43. Anita Yancey

    Follow on GFC(Anita Yancey)

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

  44. Anita Yancey

    Subscribe by email.

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

Pin It