Set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Dreams of Falling is a story about lifelong friends who share a devastating secret.
A moss-draped oak tree on the banks of the North Santee River was the repository of three young girls’ dreams. The tree stood on the grounds of the home of generations of Margaret Darlington’s family. She urged her two best friends, Ceecee and Bitty, to join her in writing down their hopes and dreams on ribbons that they deposited into the tree’s trunk for safekeeping, along with their pledge: Friends forever, come what may.
Nine years ago, Larkin Lanier left Georgetown, South Carolina for good. At least that’s what she believed at the time. But when notified that her mother, Ivy, is missing, Larkin must return to the home she both loves and despises. When found, Ivy has sustained catastrophic injuries and is unconscious. She fell in the burned-out wreckage of the Darlington plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin searches for answers, she uncovers secrets that have been kept for nearly fifty years about love, sacrifice, and betrayal by three girls whose friendship and loyalty were tested, but endured.
Fans of best-selling author Karen White will be delighted by Dreams of Falling in which White employs her signature writing style to tell the story of lifelong friends, the secrets they maintained, and their motivations for doing so.
Growing up in South Carolina, the beautiful, charismatic Margaret Darlington was the center of Ceecee and Bitty’s universe. Wealthy, privileged, and unaccustomed to being denied her every whim, Margaret’s Southern charm and sophistication stood in contrast to Ceecee’s conservative upbringing as the daughter of a local pastor. Bitty was reared by working-class parents. But the three of them were devoted to each other. Into the Tree of Dreams, a towering oak on the Darlington property, the three girls dropped, at Margaret’s urging, ribbons upon which they wrote their hopes and desires. They also swore that their friendship would withstand any challenges.
During one glorious two-week vacation following their 1951 high school graduation, Ceecee and Margaret believed the tree had fulfilled their identical desires. They met a pair of handsome brothers — one a veteran who was finishing up his education and about to commence upon a successful career as a doctor, and the younger of the two who aspired to be President of the United States. But he was determined to serve his country first, despite Margaret’s attempts to convince him to stay with her and begin their life together. The long-revered Darlington luck had finally run out. Margaret was rendered bereft and Ceecee was heartbroken when duty and honor came into play. Soon after, a devastating fire destroyed the Darlington plantation and set into motion events that would have far-reaching consequences for generations.
Now, in 2010, Margaret’s granddaughter, Larkin, has returned from New York City to care for her injured mother, Ivy. Larkin fled South Carolina in search of a life free from the humiliations and delusions of her youth. Ivy was raised by Ceecee after Margaret died tragically in the fire when Ivy was just two years old. Ivy, an artist, mostly entrusted Larkin’s upbringing to Ceecee and her husband, who played an enormous role in Larkin’s upbringing and were extremely influrential in Larkin’s life. Larkin was an overweight girl upon whom Ceecee doted, never criticizing, and leading Larkin to have an inflated sense of her abilities, accomplishments, and appearance. Larkin studied and analyzed dreams as a direct result of Ivy’s recurring nightmares about fire. She wanted to help her mother understand them so they would stop recurring, but notes that she never believes them to be “memories from her past.” After she moved to New York, Larkin became fit and trim, realizing, through two years of therapy, that “[a]ll my life Ceecee had been stuffing me with food, trying to feed my disappoints and insecurities and fill the void left by my mother’s absences.” Crusity, pragmatic Bitty serves as a voice of reason, urging Larkin to understand that Ceecee was always motivated by “a heart so big you could park a shrimp boat in it and still have room for a kayak or two.” Ceecee’s whole life was devoted, as Bitty observes, to Ivy and Larkin, who has been estranged — apart from the annual birthday message — from Ivy for the full nine years she has been away. In light of her mother’s injuries, however, Larkin’s return home provides the impetus for resolution of old hurts, resentments, and the discovery of the truth about Margaret’s untimely death, as Ivy hovers between life and death.
Throughout our lives we are all falling. Falling down, falling out, falling away. Falling in love. The trick is finding someone to catch us. And sometimes we surprise ourselves by finding out that person is us.
White employs multiple voices to relate current-day events, as well as those set in motion back in 1951 that altered all of their lives. Ivy, in a comatose state, observes what is transpiring around her, as well as her motivations for her actions. She sees her long-lost love, killed in the Vietnam War, urging her to join him for eternity. Ceecee narrates the youthful adventure of three hopeful 1951 graduates, describing the meeting and ensuring romances of Margaret and Ceecee with the handsome brothers, as well as the heartbreak each suffered and the circumstances surrounding the fire that destroyed the Darlington plantation. Larkin relates her journey toward the realities of her childhood experiences, current circumstances, and the options she selected, as well as those before her. Larkin comes to understand what her friend has always said is true: “Sometimes we think we’ve changed when really all we’ve done is grow into the person we were always meant to be.”
The result is a powerful tale of familial choices, secrets, and relationships within an intricately-plotted mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end of the story. Dreams of Falling is pure Karen White-style storytelling, infused with Southern charm and values, and an exploration of the nuances and intricacies of female friendship with an intriguing mystery at the center of it all. Dreams of Falling is a perfect summer beach read!