Saturday, June 9, 2012

Guest Review - - Sea Change


Sea Change
By Karen White
Publisher: NAL Accent/Berkley
Release Date: June 5, 2012



At thirty-five, Ava Whalen seems set to marry her family-approved fiancĂ© and settle into a life similar to the lives of her parents and four much-older brothers, all of whom are married with children and homes near their parents in Antioch, Georgia. This predictable pattern is shattered when Ava, a midwife, meets Matthew Frazier, a psychologist, at a medical conference. The two fall in love at first sight and marry two months later. Gloria, Ava’s mother is not happy with the sudden marriage, but she is so dismayed by the couple’s plan to live in Matthew’s centuries-old family home on St. Simons Island (the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles) that she retreats to her room, refusing even to tell her daughter goodbye.

Ava has her own concerns about living on the island. For as long as she can remember, she has had a fear of large bodies of water, particularly the ocean, which can cause paralyzing nightmares. As if her water phobia were not enough of a problem, she learns within a few hours of arriving at her new home that Matthew has neglected to tell her that he is a widower whose first wife, artist Adrienne McMahon, died in an automobile accident four years earlier. The following day Matthew reveals another shocker: Adrienne’s family believes he killed her. Ava assures Matthew of her trust, but Matthew clearly still has secrets he is protecting. When they are together, the power of the attraction between them silences Ava’s questions, but in his absence the questions haunt her.

Eager to escape questions that keep mounting, Ava accepts an invitation from Tish Ryan, a local florist and long-time friend of Matthew’s family, to join her research for the historical society. Ava is soon fascinated with a Frazier family legend about a ghost who haunts the island’s shores calling for the wife who reputedly left him to sail for England with her lover, a member of the Royal Marines stationed on St. Simons during the War of 1812. But Ava finds the past too is filled with unanswered questions. And when, at Matthew’s urging, she allows him to hypnotize her in order to learn answers to some troubling questions about her own past, Ava’s connection to those distant figures becomes frighteningly real.

Interwoven with Ava’s story are bits of the life of Pamela Frazier, the legendary faithless wife. The reader learns of her great love for her husband Geoffrey, her grief over the loss of a child, her dedication to midwifery, her difficulties with a jealous sister, and her death by drowning. The past impinges on the present in tangible and indefinable ways. A wedding band engraved with the word “Forever” is found serendipitously by Pamela in the 19th century and becomes a symbol of the commitment she and Geoffrey share. It is passed from generation to generation in the Frazier family and two hundred years later becomes the wedding ring Matthew gives to Adrienne, a ring she mysteriously rejects, insisting that it does not belong to her. A different time is merely another room into which characters and readers sometimes move.

Once again Karen White employs elements of the classic gothic romance to create an appropriately haunting story. But what sets White apart from other descendants of du Maurier and company is that while the conventional elements are included—the ancient house haunted by the past, the hero with a mysterious former wife, the secondary male who befriends the heroine and plants doubts in her mind, and so on—<i>Sea Change</i> is also something more complex and subtle than just an entertaining gothic tale.

As Ava leaves home to begin her new life, her grandmother tells her to always remember “that some endings are really beginnings.” This line is both a clue to Ava’s past and a thematic statement. These words evoked T. S. Eliot’s “East Coker” for me. The second of Eliot’s <i>Four Quartets</i> begins “In my beginning is my end” and ends with an inversion of the opening line, “In my end is my beginning.” In between, Eliot considers time and timelessness and an unending cycle of creation, destruction, creation. I don’t know if White is consciously alluding to Eliot’s poem, but in a very different context, she pushes the reader to examine Eliot’s theme.  That she does so while keeping her reader engaged with her characters in both the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries is a measure of her storytelling gift.

Early in the novel, Ava first sees Matthew’s ancestral home and thinks “it seemed as if the house were hiding from time itself, content to let the years bypass it unchanged, in the same way the breezes stirred the marsh grasses, leaving them to return upright again.” In the closing lines, her thoughts once again focus on the house: “Matthew took my hand in his, his fingers touching the ring like a talisman, then led me back toward the ancient house, the house with memories like an ocean’s waves with no beginnings and no endings, its sighs reminding me of how impossible it is sometimes to distinguish between the two.” Shades of Manderley—and echoes of something more profound.

~Janga
http://justjanga.blogspot.com

Thanks to NAL Accent, we have a copy of SEA CHANGE to give to one randomly chosen person leaving a comment today.



20 comments:

  1. Difficult not to think about Rebecca and make comparisons...nonetheless, I look forward to reading this book and, as usual, thank you for another great review!
    minadecaro@hotmail.com

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  2. It would be terrifying to be afraid of water & live on an island. Only one way off or on.

    "Elements of the classic Gothic romance" yes please!!

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    1. I'll echo your "yes please!" Love those Gothics!

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  3. Wowww loves the interwoven of the past abd the future . It's really true one cannot let go the past in order to face the futurez, the future and the past the walk hand in hand together. They are one, arethazhenATrocketmailDOTcom

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    1. the future and the past the walk hand in hand together.

      Love that!

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  4. Thank you for the review. The book sounds intriguing! I have read other books by Karen White and have enjoyed them.

    I recognized her name right away because she has been a guest speaker (more than once, I believe) at The Moveable Feast, which features literary luncheons with exciting authors at area restaurants in and around Pawleys Island, South Carolina. And she is returning on Friday, June 22nd at 11:00 am to talk about her new book, Sea Change.


    My mother lives in Pawleys Island and attends these luncheons regularly. Here is a little blurb about Karen White that was on the website for The Movable Feast. (http://www.classatpawleys.com/feast.php)

    "After playing hooky one day in the seventh grade to read "Gone With the Wind," Karen White knew she wanted to be a writer—or become Scarlett O'Hara. In spite of these aspirations, Karen pursued a degree in business and graduated cum laude with a BS in Management from Tulane University. Ten years later, after leaving the business world, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer and wrote her first book. In the "Shadow of the Moon" was published in August, 2000. This book was nominated for the prestigious RITA award in 2001 in two separate categories. Her books have since been nominated for numerous national contests including another RITA, the Georgia Author of the Year Award and in 2008 won the National Readers' Choice Award for 'Learning to Breathe.'"

    For anyone in the area who would like to hear Karen White speak and enjoy a lovely lunch -- there might be a booksigning as well, here is the phone number 843-235-9600. It may be full since she has been there before and has fans who may be going back to see her again. Just thought I would mention it. Wish I was planning a visit to see my mom then.

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    1. Thanks for the mention, Annie! I've been to one of Karen's reader luncheons here in the Upstate of South Carolina and they're terrific. In fact, she's coming back to Greenville (SC) this coming Tuesday, June 12th.

      If any of you readers are in the South Carolina Upstate and interested in a luncheon/booksigning with Karen White you can find the details at this link.

      http://bookyourlunch.com/book-your-lunch-with-karen-white/

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  5. Thanks for another terrific review, Janga!

    Karen White is one of my favorite women's fiction authors. She excels at seamlessly weaving past and future together.

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  6. What a wonderful feature and review. this plot, and the characters are so captivating. many thanks.

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  7. This novel and the power it evokes is stunning. Your inclusiong of T.S. Eliot is also very compelling and interesting since I was just quoting from his this week. This book would be memorable.

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  8. Very thought provoking and enjoyable at the same time. I really enjoyed this review!

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  9. Thanks for the kind words about the review, y'all. I hope everyone reads Sea Change. It really is a terrific book. I don't think Karen White can write a book I don't love. I reread one of her early ones, Falling Home, recently and was captivated anew.

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  10. I love Karen's Tradd Street series, but I haven't read any of her other books. This sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

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  11. Thank you for introducing me to a writer unknown to me. I read du Maurier as a child and Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart as an adult so Karen White is a welcome addition to that rather narrow "Gothic Romance" niche.

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  12. Very nice review. These sound like interesting characters.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. What a great review! Love the sound of this book also love the cover!

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  14. Wonderful review! Makes me want to read it Right Now!

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  15. A great review! I've seen this around some other blogs and it looks awesome. I can't wait to read it. Please enter me for it.

    gfc follower

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

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  16. This sounds like the type of book I will enjoy. I have always liked books with a gothic touch. REBECCA is one of my all time favorites. Thanks for the review. I'll keep my eye open for this one.

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