I was born in a small low-country town surrounded by sounds of the ocean. Throughout my childhood we lived either on the beach or within a short drive to the water. I have always had an affinity for the ocean and all things beach ~ capturing my two loves, reading and the water, puts me in an almost euphoric state…can you hear that I love the beach?!?
Now add on one of my favorite Southern authors writing about a small island town in Georgia and you know I have died and gone to heaven! Plus, if you looked at my copy of Sea Change now you would be able to tell that it has seen some sand and water!
Karen White has written several much-beloved novels over the past twelve years, becoming what The Huffington Post calls “one of the best new writers on the scene today.” And oh, is she!
In Sea Change we have Ava Whalen, midwife and newlywed to psychologist, Matthew Frazier. Matthew is a descendant of one of the original families to settle St. Simon’s Island and lives on the original family plot. Ava and Matthew wed after a whirlwind romance leaving Ava to depart from her hometown of Antioch to move into the Frazier homestead on St. Simon’s Island. Ava and Matthew both go into the marriage hiding a huge, terrible secret – Ava is deathly afraid of water [but moves to an island] and Matthew was previously married [his wife died in a tragic accident in which her family believes Matthew was responsible]. Ava’s mother, Gloria and her grandmother, Mimi also have a huge, terrible secret they are hiding from Ava ~ one that could potentially destroy her.
Sea Change is all about secrets and the reasons people have for keeping them. The story is told in the alternating voices of Ava, her mother, Gloria, and Pamela, a midwife from the 1800s. Pamela married into the Frazier family and helped to establish the island town.
Karen White has a gift for creating lush, vibrant images through her writing. I could see the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, smell the heady combination of sea salt and foliage, and hear the ever-present cicadas creating their nightly symphony. With that said, White’s characters typically have depth and substance that make them completely believable. In Sea Change, the characters did not resonate well with me. I could not connect with Ava at all, although it may have a more to do with her fear of the water. Gloria was completely disconnected from her daughter and Pamela made a choice that altered the lives of so many people yet it seemed out of character, or maybe one of those instances where you’re standing on the sidelines going “how can you be so naive woman!”
Matthew’s character felt flat to me. The romance between Ava and Matthew was not the primary or even secondary storyline and the forever soul-mates idea of the two just did not settle well. The one character I did like and thought was fully fleshed out was Matthew’s first wife, Adrienne. She was well-known to the islanders and loved by everyone but there was an underlying secret that ultimately destroyed her.
Honestly, I don’t think any of her books will ever compare to On Folly Beach. [read my review here] That one will always be a Karen White classic for me.
Have you read Sea Change? or any of White’s other novels? What did you think?