What an exquisitely gorgeous story this was--more a tale about family than anything, but also a romance, a mystery, dealing with abusive relationships, and Loralee's mother's good advice wrapped up into one novel that will make you feel good.
I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the book, which took place in South Carolina. Merritt had moved from Maine and the cultural differences were palpable from the beginning. It was a lot of fun to watch Loralee teaching Merritt how to act like a good Southerner and seeing Merritt fighting with things like humidity. There were also some beautifully crafted scenes involving alligators and dolphins that made me really feel as though I was getting the South Carolinan vibe.
There were a few secrets in this book, namely Loralee's, and one mystery, a set of events that were too eerie to be coincidence. White artfully dropped tidbits of information about all of these secrets so that as a reader I could figure them out just before the characters did.
With Loralee's help, Merritt became a truly strong character. She had a hard background and a lot of traumatizing memories to work through, and her character really reflected this. It was heartening to watch her work through these experiences and to see her grow as a person.
Loralee was inspiring and I adored growing to love her alongside Merritt. She was an incredible mother to Owen and an incredible human being to everyone she came across in a way that didn't feel forced, but instead very real and she was very much a role model, someone everyone should be a little more like.
Even smaller characters like Debbie had back stories that worked their way into the current tale to make them believable and realistic. Gibbes was the only big character who could feel a little flat at times, but this wasn't his story, so that was okay.
This was slow moving at times, and I read a few other books while reading it as it didn't completely envelop me. I also found it distracting how Merritt's chapters were written in first person while Loralee's and Edith's were written in third.
However, White tied up all of the loose ends and brought each thread back together in a really satisfying manner. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.