To all the world, 39-year-old Julia Bennett is the quintessential artist, complete with Manhattan apartment, an impressive job in a university art department, and paintings for sale at high-end art shows. The delectable frosting on her cake is Simon, an English art dealer who has just proposed. But in the midst of making wedding plans and coordinating her trip to Budapest on a Fulbright scholarship, Julia gets a visitor --- a haunting reminder of her past who is about to take her future on the ride of a lifetime.
"MOON OVER EDISTO weaves lovely imagery throughout a compelling, heartstrings story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the strength to make the right choice. Told from multiple points of view, it provides insight into the bruised hearts of characters who have taken some hard hits."
Marney looks like walking death, a far cry from the curvy, beautiful girl who was Julia’s best friend all through college. It’s been nearly two decades since they’ve seen each other, but Julia remembers it all: the summers and holidays Marney spent with Julia’s family on South Carolina’s Edisto Island, the friendship she thought would last forever…and the betrayal that ripped her family apart. When Julia’s father divorced her mother to marry the young Marney, the Bennett women found their own way to handle the shock and pain. Julia left South Carolina without looking back and focused on her career; her sister Meg got married and had children, determined to create the “perfect” family; and her mother found comfort among friends and work. Julia thought they had all moved on…until Marney showed up with lung cancer and no one to look after her three young children.
Julia grudgingly agrees to watch the kids for a week while Marney is in the hospital. She dreads her return to Edisto Island, and the memories that will surely assault her with hurricane force. Upon arriving, however, she finds little time to concern herself with memories. The cottage is flea-ridden and dirty, the refrigerator empty, and the kids fear for their sick mother. But Edisto is as beautiful and enchanting as ever, and something about it still feels like home. As Julia tries to create order from chaos, another person from her past arrives on the scene: Jed. He was the first boy she kissed as a teenager, and he’s grown into a handsome surgeon who prefers country life to a big city career.
Before the week is out, Julia has seen the kids through injury, illness and fears. She has cleaned their house, bought them clothes, taken them fishing, and quite unexpectedly allowed her half-siblings to nestle into her heart. And though she doesn’t want to admit it, Jed has found a place there as well. Despite her new emotional ties, Julia leaves at week’s end, heads for Budapest, and returns to Manhattan in time to prepare for her upcoming wedding. Still, she can’t stop thinking about the children and Jed.
As Marney faces death just days before the wedding, she requests a meeting with Julia and asks the impossible: for Julia to forgive her and raise her children. Julia is surprised that forgiving Marney comes easier than she expected, but raising the children will mean giving up a cushy future for one that will be completely unpredictable and full of challenges. She can’t shake the feeling it also will be full of love --- the kind she’s been missing for a very long time.
MOON OVER EDISTO weaves lovely imagery throughout a compelling, heartstrings story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the strength to make the right choice. Told from multiple points of view, it provides insight into the bruised hearts of characters who have taken some hard hits. My favorite is Julia’s nine-year-old half-sister, Etta, who won’t talk to anyone except her little brother. My least favorite is Julia’s older sister, Meg --- not because she’s the least likable, but because she experiences an abrupt change of heart right before the last chapter with almost no incentive to do so. This, however, is not enough to taint the overall goodness of a book worth reading and sharing.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on February 15, 2013