Skip to main content




Both John and Honor Sullivan are artists --- John creates massive
sculptures from nature and then photographs his fleeting work that
nature will soon rearrange and destroy, and Honor paints landscapes
and portraits in oils. While working in Ireland John crosses paths
with a troubled drifter; a fateful confrontation between them
causes a tragedy that eventually threatens to destroy the entire
Sullivan family.

John is a stubborn and passionate risk taker with a dark brooding
side. Honor wants to keep the family, especially their three
daughters, safe and intact at any cost. But John continually puts
himself in harm's way while creating his earthscapes. Because he is
often absent from home, Honor tries to provide the security she
craves for her children. The oldest daughter, Regis, has inherited
her father's sense of recklessness. The middle daughter, Agnes,
wants to be like her aunt, Sister Bernadette, who once experienced
a vision that sealed her fate. And youngest daughter Cecilia just
wants to be included in whatever her sisters are doing; she is too
young to understand the family dynamics that have been impacted by
her father's lengthy imprisonment.

John went to Ireland to connect spiritually and physically with the
land of his ancestors. There he labored on a huge sculpture at the
edge of steep cliffs that faced the sea. He hired a drifter named
Greg to assist him with the difficult physical work. Greg wanted
more work than John could offer and thus vandalized the sculpture;
in anger, John threatened his life in front of witnesses. Later,
there was a confrontation at the edge of the cliff. Greg was killed
and John, who was charged with the murder, offered absolutely no
defense and was imprisoned for six years. Honor was perplexed and
dismayed that John refused to offer any defense against the

While John spends six years languishing in an Irish prison, Honor
and the girls return to America, to the peaceful convent grounds at
the Star of the Sea Academy in Connecticut where Honor teaches art.
The six years move rather slowly and the whole family suffers, each
in her own way, without John's presence and love. Regis, now 20,
has just become engaged to the son of well-to-do summer residents.
Agnes seems to think that she has psychic powers and tries to will
herself to have visions. Honor is upset that Regis might abandon
her studies to marry just for the sake of security.

Without notifying Honor, John returns to the family's hometown and
is secretly watching them; Honor and the girls have no idea that he
is so nearby --- they assume he's still in prison. He resurfaces
because he wants to attend the upcoming wedding. Honor is torn
between her love for John and her desire to maintain what has
become a peaceful though unhappy existence without him. The girls
all want their father to rejoin the family and cannot understand
Honor's reluctance to welcome him back with open arms. John's
sister, the nun, is dealing with past regrets, and when a young man
befriends Agnes, Sister Bernadette and her former lover Tom are
forced to come to terms with the past.

SANDCASTLES is about family --- how strong the ties that bind
families are, as well as how fragile those ties can become if
honest communication does not take place. It also deals with the
healing of painful memories and the importance of

Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 23, 2011

by Luanne Rice

  • Publication Date: June 27, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553804197
  • ISBN-13: 9780553804195