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The Beach House

Cover of The Beach House

The Beach House

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Known for her moving characters and emotional honesty, Mary Alice Monroe brings readers a beautifully rendered story that explores the fragile yet enduring bond between mothers and daughters.

Caretta Rutledge thought she'd left her Southern roots and troubled family far behind. But an unusual request from her mother--coming just as her own life is spinning out of control--has Cara heading back to the scenic Lowcountry of her childhood summers. Before long, the rhythms of the island open her heart in wonderful ways as she repairs the family beach house, becomes a bona fide "turtle lady" and renews old acquaintances long thought lost. But it is in reconnecting with her mother that she will learn life's most precious lessons--true love involves sacrifice, family is forever and the mistakes of the past can be forgiven.



Known for her moving characters and emotional honesty, Mary Alice Monroe brings readers a beautifully rendered story that explores the fragile yet enduring bond between mothers and daughters.

Caretta Rutledge thought she'd left her Southern roots and troubled family far behind. But an unusual request from her mother--coming just as her own life is spinning out of control--has Cara heading back to the scenic Lowcountry of her childhood summers. Before long, the rhythms of the island open her heart in wonderful ways as she repairs the family beach house, becomes a bona fide "turtle lady" and renews old acquaintances long thought lost. But it is in reconnecting with her mother that she will learn life's most precious lessons--true love involves sacrifice, family is forever and the mistakes of the past can be forgiven.

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    Cara had begun this long journey home many times in her mind over the years, but always there was some project, some appointment, some emotional obstacle of her own construction that stopped her.

    Road weary and life tired, Cara was traveling the path of least resistance as she headed south across the flat expanse of the old cotton country known as the coastal plains. It had been over twenty years since she'd driven this long stretch of South Carolina highway toward the sea. Growing up, she'd always considered it someplace to drive through on her way to somewhere else. Anywhere else.

    She passed vanishing woodlands and acres of farmland for sale, huge, flat-roofed warehouses and sun-faded billboards heralding exits for boiled peanuts, tree-ripened peaches, stock-car racing and fireworks. It was late May. Spring was already giving way to sizzling summer in the South. Elderberry bushes rambled along the roadsides, and beyond in the pinewoods, Cara knew the coral beans were aflame and swamp roses decorated the banks like some wild hothouse garden.

    The thought that the sea turtles were returning home to nest sprang to mind. She laughed out loud at the irony.

    If someone had told her a year ago that the following May she would be driving to Charleston for an extended visit with her mother, Cara would have tossed back her head and laughed in that throaty manner of hers. "Impossible," she would have told them, the smile slipping from her face and a flash sparking in her eyes. First of all, her schedule would never have allowed it. Every minute of her day was double booked. At best, in an emergency, she might fly in for an overnight stop, as she had for her father's funeral. Secondly, there was nowhere on earth she'd least want to visit than Charleston. And no person less than her mother. The current status of a polite truce had worked well for them both over the past years of her self-imposed exile.

    But, as always, Mama's timing was impeccable. Where else would one go but home when there was nowhere else to go?

    Cara tightened her grip on the steering wheel. How could her orderly life have careened so far out of control? How did it happen that, after twenty-two years of living independently, after a successful career, after complete and utter self-sufficiency, she found herself back on this damnable stretch of road limping back home?

    It was her mother's letter that had lured her. The day before, Lovie had sent the customary flowers for Cara's birthday. As Cara gingerly unwrapped the purple florist tissue, the heady scent of the gardenias permeated her apartment.

    Instantly, Cara was back in her mother's walled garden in Charleston where an ancient magnolia spread its broad glossy leaves and the white, heavily scented flowers of the gardenias competed with the climbing jasmine. She'd opened the letter from her mother and read her familiar, feathery script.

    Happy Birthday Dear Caretta!

    I never smell gardenias without thinking of you.

    Things have been in a state of flux since your father's death. Now it is time for me to, shall we say, put my house in order. Come home, Cara, just for a while. Not to the house on Tradd Street. Come to the beach house. We've always had the best times there, haven't we?

    Please don't say that you are too busy or that you can't get away. Remember how we used to say "Take charge of your birthday"? Can't you grant yourself this one gift of time and spend a few days with your ancient mother? Please come home, Cara dear. Soon. Your father is gone and we need to sort through years of accumulation.

    Love, Mama


    Perhaps it was the scent of...

About the Author-
  • Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of thirteen novels. Her books received numerous awards, including the Award for Writing from the South Carolina Center for the Book and the International Fiction Award for Green Fiction. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her at www.maryalicemonroe.com and on Facebook.

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