St. Simons Island, just off the Georgia coast, much to her mother's chagrin.
In her newest novel Sea Change, Karen White explores St. Simons Island, both in the early 1800s and now. The story is revealed through a modern-day plot that explores Ava and Matthew's marriage and, in flashbacks to the 1800s, the tale of Matthew's ancestors who lived in the same historical home where Ava and Matthew now reside. Although I often shy away from books that include historical fiction, White expertly gives readers just enough of the nineteenth century without overdoing it. I was highly interested in both plot lines; at no point did I wish the novel would stay in the present.
White is known for her ghost tales as the writer of the Tradd Street series set in Charleston. Although I wouldn't cite Sea Change as a true ghost story, White includes haunting elements that enrich the story. Ava has an almost sixth sense about Matthew's long-dead ancestors. As a history buff herself, she befriends a local woman whose with similar interests, and the two of them explore island history in their spare time. Ava finds herself recognizing people and places in old photographs, even before she researches them -- a phenomenon she can't explain.
The ghost of Matthew's first wife also resides in the house where they live, if not literally then figuratively. Her paintings hang on the walls and her touch remains everywhere, from the kitchen where she loved to cook to the outbuilding where she painted. She, too, was a gardener like Ava -- and the two of them share a rather specific career choice. She was also a midwife. When Ava learns that Matthew's first wife's death is considered suspicious by her family, she too begins to suspect her husband of some sort of wrongdoing, and wonders about his choice of her as a second wife.
White has written an interestingly mysterious novel with a fittingly southern gothic setting. The historical elements add a richness to the story, rather than distracting from the present-day tale. Sea Change is one of the best summer reads I've found so far this year. I've read several White novels (although I haven't read her Tradd Street series), and I will be indulging in more.
Karen White is the author of more than a dozen novels set in and around the south, often near a sea coast. In addition to the Tradd Street ghost series set in Charleston, White has also written standalone novels set in locations like Biloxi, Mississippi; Folly Beach, South Carolina; and Pawleys Island, South Carolina. To learn more about her, you can visit her website, read her blog, or add her on Facebook. You can also read an excerpt of the novel by clicking here. Also, you might be able to meet White as she travels around the south this summer on book tour for Sea Change. Click here for dates.
The winner of this week's Summer Reading Giveaway is Jessi Kohring, who I used to teach with! She moved to another state last summer, so I haven't seen her in a while. Jessi, I hope you enjoy! I'm passing your contact info along to the publisher, who will send you a copy of Sea Change.