Photo and Blog by Larkin Oates
On beach trips, it is practically a family mandate; that in-laws genetically cannot understand, that during peak melanoma hours, we nap. During this time, while nappers nap, others work on puzzles or read. This summer, on Edisto Island in South Carolina, I spend these midday hours reading Barbara Delinsky’s Sweet Salt Air. As I listen to the waves outside our rental cottage, I am lulled into Delinsky’s coastal Maine. Delinsky spins her tale of two friend’s reuniting to collaborate on a regional cookbook from their beloved Quinnipeague Island, Maine. I love these strong creative women and their friendship. Charlotte is a well-traveled writer and Nichole is a popular food blogger. Together, they demonstrate how a time-worn friendship can override past pain and help soothe present struggles. I am inspired as these friends care for each other while blending their talents and strengths in pursuit of their project. I enjoy being a fly on the wall as Charlotte interviews quirky island characters while begging for their recipes, and Nichole tests recipes for consistency that will translate into a user friendly cookbook. With detailed flourishes of fresh garden herbs and seafood from the local docks, this story is entertaining and the plot quite unexpected.
Once home from vacation, I am reluctant to leave the coastal mindset, so I begin to read my way through my Mother’s stack of South Carolina reads. In Murder on Edisto by C. Hope Clark, former Boston Police Detective Callie returns to her roots on Edisto Island after the death of her husband. Hoping to find peace and restore her soul, Callie instead finds a dear friend and mentor murdered. Despite depression over this finding, she feels compelled to pursue his killer and finds a sizeable array of suspects. While Callie feels anxiety and powerlessness; both as a woman back in the south, and without a badge, she is dogged in her pursuit of justice for her lost friend. This mystery is rich with details of tracking sand indoors. When Callie drives down Jungle Road to the famous SeaCow (picture a snorkel ready cow) for coffee, I love re-experiencing Edisto.
Still plowing through my Mom’s books, I read Return to Tradd Street by Karen White. Here, Melanie has inherited an historic downtown Charleston home. After a baby skeleton is unearthed amidst a foundation repair, a paranormal mystery ensues. White delightfully weaves a ghostly past into the lives of present day characters. Personally, having lived in a Victorian home with its ongoing and expensive maintenance, I predicted a poltergeist nightmare. But, a pregnant Melanie prevails despite the house and its audible protests.
Perhaps my favorite of this book series is The Beach House, by Mary Alice Monroe. Here, Monroe conveys a gorgeous coastal biology while showing us the complexity of family ties. As readers, we are initially driven from Chicago by Cara, a successful executive, as she returns home to her roots in South Carolina. Alienated for decades from family, Cara reluctantly finds herself entangled in her Mother Lovie’s life on the Isle of Palms.
I sense a shift for this family when Cara and her mother witness a loggerhead turtle laying eggs in the sand near Lovie’s cottage. Cara becomes further enamored by this endangered species after she sees dozens of tiny turtle hatchlings crack out of their shells and scurry frantically to the ocean. Subsequently, Cara feels a deeper understanding of her mother and her mother’s obsessive commitment as a “turtle lady” to track, document, and protect these reptiles. I recently saw these human guardians on Edisto Beach and now happily realize that such defenders of sea turtles are along coastlines worldwide.
Throughout the story, I can relate to Cara as she decompresses from her urban life with beach walks and other rituals of coastal living. I remind myself that such treasured peace might not happen after only one beach vacation so I will schedule another trip soon.
I have enjoyed my recent reading. Before closing, I want to mention finding The Coffee Shop at Edisto Beach. I felt much relief there drinking liters of water and an iced latte after kayaking in 94 degree heat with a million percent humidity. Also, on the southern tip of Edisto, I saw an artists’ market. Despite the sweat streaming in my eyes, I especially enjoyed seeing island photographer Susan Robert’s poignant nature studies as well as the regional sweet grass baskets and their artisans. Of note to writers, Edisto island author C. Hope Clark supports other writers at fundsforwriters.com.