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The Summer Girls [NOOK Book]

Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe, the heartwarming first installment in the Lowcountry Summer trilogy, a poignant series following three half-sisters and their grandmother.

Three granddaughters. Three months. One summer house.

In this enchanting trilogy set on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe ...
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The Summer Girls

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Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe, the heartwarming first installment in the Lowcountry Summer trilogy, a poignant series following three half-sisters and their grandmother.

Three granddaughters. Three months. One summer house.

In this enchanting trilogy set on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe captures the complex relationships between Dora, Carson, and Harper, three half-sisters scattered across the country—and a grandmother determined to help them rediscover their family bonds.

For years, Carson Muir has drifted, never really settling, certain only that a life without the ocean is a life half lived. Adrift and penniless in California, Carson is the first to return to Sea Breeze, wondering where things went wrong…until the sea she loves brings her a minor miracle. Her astonishing bond with a dolphin helps Carson renew her relationships with her sisters and face the haunting memories of her ill-fated father. As the rhythms of the island open her heart, Carson begins to imagine the next steps toward her future.

In this heartwarming novel, three sisters discover the true treasures Sea Breeze offers as surprising truths are revealed, mistakes forgiven, and precious connections made that will endure long beyond one summer.
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Editorial Reviews

Patricia Fair
"The Summer Girls conveys sound environmental messages through a captivating story of how the ocean and a charismatic dolphin reunite sisters in the alluring ecological setting of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The story resonates on a personal level and, moreover, delivers a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting dolphins and the environment in which they live."
Bookreporter
“In the bestselling tradition of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Mary Alice Monroe skillfully weaves together issues of class, women’s rights, and domestic abuse set in the tumultuous South during the 1970s. . . . Beautifully wrought, and rich with keen insight . . . an unforgettable tale of marriage, resilience, and one woman’s private strength.”
Dorothea Benton Frank
“Magical! Mary Alice Monroe's writing is always sensitive and true, and as inspiring as the natural wonder about which she writes. This luminous tale—set in the South Carolina Lowcountry that we both love so deeply—was hard to put down.”
Charleston City Paper
“Monroe utilizes her signature combination of informative storytelling wrapped in the relatable sagas of her protagonists.”
Booklist
"Monroe makes her characters so believable, the reader can almost hear them breathing."
RT Reviews
"An author of power and depth."
New York Times bestselling author Pat Conroy
"Mary Alice Monroe has written another novel that is helping to redefine the beauty and magic of the Carolina Lowcountry. Every book she has written has felt like a homecoming to me and...she has succeeded in making the marshes and rivers of the Lowcountry her literary home.... Haunting."
New York Times bestselling author Cassandra King
"The Summer Girls is more than just a beautifully written, moving portrayal of three sisters finding themselves and each other after years of separation. It's also an important book that deals head-on with significant issues so skillfully woven into the narrative that I often stopped to consider the import of what I'd just read. If you're a dedicated environmentalist, this book is a must-read. If you're just someone who enjoys a good story, you'll get that, too, and much more."
New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry
“Monroe’s resplendent storytelling shines even brighter . . . [with] startling insights into the intimate connection between nature and the human heart.”
From the Publisher
"Mary Alice Monroe has taken the rich waters of the Atlantic Coast as her own field of dreams. In The Summer Girls,she sings a song of praise to the bottle-nosed dolphins that bring so much joy to the men and women who gaze at the creeks and rivers of the low country each evening. Like all her books, The Summer Girls is a call to arms."

"The Summer Girls is more than just a beautifully written, moving portrayal of three sisters finding themselves and each other after years of separation. It's also an important book that deals head-on with significant issues so skillfully woven into the narrative that I often stopped to consider the import of what I'd just read. If you're a dedicated environmentalist, this book is a must-read. If you're just someone who enjoys a good story, you'll get that, too, and much more."

"The Summer Girls conveys sound environmental messages through a captivating story of how the ocean and a charismatic dolphin reunite sisters in the alluring ecological setting of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The story resonates on a personal level and, moreover, delivers a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting dolphins and the environment in which they live."

“Monroe’s resplendent storytelling shines even brighter . . . [with] startling insights into the intimate connection between nature and the human heart.”

“In the bestselling tradition of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Mary Alice Monroe skillfully weaves together issues of class, women’s rights, and domestic abuse set in the tumultuous South during the 1970s. . . . Beautifully wrought, and rich with keen insight . . . an unforgettable tale of marriage, resilience, and one woman’s private strength.”

“Magical! Mary Alice Monroe's writing is always sensitive and true, and as inspiring as the natural wonder about which she writes. This luminous tale—set in the South Carolina Lowcountry that we both love so deeply—was hard to put down.”

“Monroe brings authenticity and a sense of wonder to the plight of the endangered sea turtles and their miraculous capacity for survival.”

“Monroe utilizes her signature combination of informative storytelling wrapped in the relatable sagas of her protagonists.”

“An exquisite, many-layered novel of an unsolved mystery, an obsession, a reconciliation, and a little romance.... Treats readers to lush descriptions of nature."

"An author of power and depth."

The Best Reviews
"A consummate storyteller."
Southeastern Charm magazine
"A master storyteller."
Powell's Book Review
"A strong, warm voice that brings the South to life."
RT Book Reviews
"Mary Alice Monroe has become one of the premier voices contemporary women's fiction today. Her lyrical, emotional, and gripping stories make for superb reading experiences."
Anne Rivers Siddons
"A soaring, passionate story of loneliness and pain and the simple ability of love to heal and transcend both. Mary Alice Monroe's voice is as strong and true as the great birds of prey of whom she writes."
Charleston Post & Courier
"Mary Alice Monroe writes from her heart to the hearts of her readers."
Books Unlimited
"Such a wonderful, exciting new read! Very well written and addicting! Looking forward to the next book in the series. Mary Alice—hurry up!"
New York Times bestselling authorPat Conroy
"Mary Alice Monroe has taken the rich waters of the AtlanticCoast as her own field of dreams. In The Summer Girls,she sings a song of praise to the bottle-nosed dolphins that bring so much joy to the men and women who gaze at the creeks and rivers of the low country each evening. Like all her books, The Summer Girls is a call to arms."
First Reads
"Mary Alice writes the most readable books with important environmental story lines, but "The Summer Girls"might be my favorite. It's about family, finding yourself, getting through bad issues that could weigh you down, and enjoying the ride with the warm embrace of family. And there's a wild dolphin who helps heal the pain but finds his own. This book has everything—sense of place, family, strong characters, romance,a love of dolphins and more. This is BETTER than a beach read; this is a great book club book to discuss! Can't wait for the next in the trilogy. thanks, Mary Alice!"
Maurice on Books
"How wonderful it is to be able to dig into a summer novel and not only get so much pleasure from the awesome story, but to learn, learn, learn...[S]he brings new awareness to those of us who need enlightening."
Linda Hitchcock of Booktrib
"[A] beautifully written and thought provoking work of fiction. Mary Alice Monroe once again delivers on her promise to write books that explore the beauty in nature and the complexity of human relationships as she delves into the human psyche."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476709031
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 6/25/2013
  • Series: Lowcountry Summer , #1
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 3,242
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Mary Alice Monroe
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including The Summer Wind, The Summer Girls, Last Light Over Carolina, Time is a River, Sweetgrass, Skyward, The Beach House, The Four Seasons, The Book Club, and Beach House Memories. Her books received numerous awards, including the Award for Writing from the South Carolina Center for the Book and the International Fiction Award for Green Fiction. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.
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Read an Excerpt

The Summer Girls


Carson was sorting through the usual boring bills and circulars in the mail when her fingers paused at the thick ecru envelope with Miss Carson Muir written in a familiar blue script. She clutched the envelope tight and her heart pumped fast as she scurried up the hot cement steps back to her apartment. The air-conditioning was broken, so only scarce puffs of breeze that carried noise and dirt from the traffic wafted through the open windows. It was a tiny apartment in a two-story stucco building near L.A., but it was close to the ocean and the rent was affordable, so Carson had stayed for three years, longer than she’d ever lived in any other apartment.

Carson carelessly tossed the other mail onto the glass cocktail table, stretched her long limbs out on the nubby brown sofa, then slid her finger along the envelope’s seal. Waves of anticipation crested in her bloodstream as she slowly pulled out the navy-trimmed, creamy stationery card. Immediately she caught a whiff of perfume—soft sweet spices and orange flowers—and, closing her eyes, she saw the Atlantic Ocean, not the Pacific, and the white wooden house on pilings surrounded by palms and ancient oaks. A smile played on her lips. It was so like her grandmother to spray her letters with scent. So old world—so Southern.

Carson nestled deeper in the cushions and relished each word of the letter. When finished, she looked up and stared in a daze at the motes of dust floating in a shaft of sunlight. The letter was an invitation . . . was it possible?

In that moment, Carson could have leaped to her feet and twirled on her toes, sending her long braid flying like that of the little girl in her memories. Mamaw was inviting her to Sullivan’s Island. A summer at Sea Breeze. Three whole rent-free months by the sea!

Mamaw always had the best timing, she thought, picturing the tall, elegant woman with hair the color of sand and a smile as sultry as a lowcountry sunset. It had been a horrid winter of endings. The television series Carson had been working on had been canceled without warning after a three-year run. Her cash flow was almost gone and she was just trying to figure out how she could make next month’s rent. For months she’d been bobbing around town looking for work like a piece of driftwood in rough waters.

Carson looked again at the letter in her hand. “Thank you, Mamaw,” she said aloud, feeling it deeply. For the first time in months Carson felt a surge of hope. She paced a circle, her fingers flexing, then strode to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of wine and poured herself a mugful. Next she crossed the room to her small wood desk, pushed the pile of clothing off the chair, then sat down and opened her laptop.

To her mind, when you were drowning and a rope was thrown your way, you didn’t waste time thinking about what to do. You just grabbed it, then kicked and swam like the devil to safety. She had a lot to do and not much time if she was going to be out of the apartment by the month’s end.

Carson picked up the invitation again, kissed it, then put her hands on the keys and began typing. She would accept Mamaw’s invitation. She was going back to the lowcountry—to Mamaw. Back to the only place in the world she’d ever thought of as home.


Dora stood at the kitchen stove stirring a red sauce. It was 5:35 P.M. and the rambling Victorian house felt empty and desolate. She used to be able to set a clock by her husband’s schedule. Even now, six months after Calhoun had left, Dora expected him to walk through the door carrying the mail. She’d lift her cheek toward the man who had been her husband for fourteen years to receive his perfunctory kiss.

Dora’s attention was caught by the sound of pounding footfalls on the stairs. A moment later, her son burst into the room.

“I made it to the next level,” he announced. He wasn’t smiling, but his eyes sparkled with triumph.

Dora smiled into his face. Her nine-year-old son made up her world. A big task for such a small boy. Nate was slight and pale, with furtive eyes that always made her wonder why her little boy was afraid. Of what? she’d asked his child psychiatrist, who had smiled kindly. “Nate isn’t so much afraid as he is guarded,” he’d answered reassuringly. “You shouldn’t take it personally, Mrs. Tupper.”

Nate had never been a cuddly baby, but she worried when his smiling stopped after a year. By two, he didn’t establish eye contact or turn his head when called. By three, he no longer came to her for comfort when he was hurt, nor did he notice or care if she cried or got angry. Except if she yelled. Then Nate covered his ears and commenced rocking in a panic.

Her every instinct had screamed that something was wrong with her baby and she began furtively reading books on child development. How many times had she turned to Cal with her worries that Nate’s speech development was behind the norm and that his movements were clumsy? And how many times had Cal turned on her, adamant that the boy was fine and she was making it all up in her head? She’d been like a turtle tucking her head in, afraid to go against him. Already the subject of Nate’s development was driving a wedge between them. When Nate turned four, however, and began flapping his hands and making odd noises, she made her first, long-overdue appointment with a child psychiatrist. It was then that the doctor revealed what Dora had long feared: her son had high-functioning autism.

Cal received the diagnosis as a psychological death sentence. But Dora was surprised to feel relieved. Having an official diagnosis was better than making up excuses and coping with her suspicions. At least now she could actively help her son.

And she did. Dora threw herself into the world of autism spectrum disorders. There was no point in gnashing her teeth wishing that she’d followed up on her own instincts sooner, knowing now that early diagnosis and treatment could have meant important strides in Nate’s development. Instead, she focused her energy on a support group and worked tirelessly to develop an intensive in-home therapy program. It wasn’t long before her entire life revolved around Nate and his needs. All her plans for restoring her house fell by the wayside, as did hair appointments, lunches with friends, her size-eight clothes.

And her marriage.

Dora had been devastated when Cal announced seemingly out of the blue one Saturday afternoon in October that he couldn’t handle living with her and Nate any longer. He assured her she would be taken care of, packed a bag, and walked out of the house. And that was that.

Dora quickly turned off the stove and wiped her hands on her apron. She put on a bright smile to greet her son, fighting her instinct to lean over and kiss him as he entered the room. Nate didn’t like being touched. She reached over to the counter to retrieve the navy-trimmed invitation that had arrived in the morning’s mail.

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” she told him with a lilt in her voice, feeling that the time was right to share Mamaw’s summer plans.

Nate tilted his head, mildly curious but uncertain. “What?”

She opened the envelope and pulled out the card, catching the scent of her grandmother’s perfume. Smiling with anticipation, Dora quickly read the letter aloud. When Nate didn’t respond, she said, “It’s an invitation. Mamaw is having a party for her eightieth birthday.”

He immediately shrank inward. “Do I have to go?” he asked, his brow furrowed with worry.

Dora understood that Nate didn’t like to attend social gatherings, not even for people he loved, like his great-grandmother. Dora bent closer and smiled. “It’s just to Mamaw’s house. You love going to Sea Breeze.”

Nate turned his head to look out the window, avoiding her eyes as he spoke. “I don’t like parties.”

Nor was he ever invited to any, she thought sadly. “It’s not really a party,” Dora hastened to explain, careful to keep her voice upbeat but calm. She didn’t want Nate to set his mind against it. “It’s only family coming—you and me and your two aunts. We’re invited to go to Sea Breeze for the weekend.” A short laugh of incredulousness burst from her throat. “For the summer, actually.”

Nate screwed up his face. “For the summer?”

“Nate, we always go to Sea Breeze to see Mamaw in July, remember? We’re just going a little earlier this year because it is Mamaw’s birthday. She will be eighty years old. It’s a very special birthday for her.” She hoped she’d explained it clearly enough for him to work it out. Nate was extremely uncomfortable with change. He liked everything in his life to be in order. Especially now that his daddy had left.

The past six months had been rocky for both of them. Though there had never been much interaction between Nate and his father, Nate had been extremely agitated for weeks after Cal moved out. He’d wanted to know if his father was ill and had gone to the hospital. Or was he traveling on business like some of his classmates’ fathers? When Dora made it clear that his father was not ever returning to the house to live with them, Nate had narrowed his eyes and asked her if Cal was, in fact, dead. Dora had looked at Nate’s taciturn face, and it was unsettling to realize that he wasn’t upset at the possibility his father might be dead. He merely needed to know for certain whether Calhoun Tupper was alive or dead so that all was in order in his life. She had to admit that it made the prospect of a divorce less painful.

“If I go to Mamaw’s house I will need to take my tetra,” Nate told her at length. “The fish will die if I leave it alone in the house.”

Dora slowly released her breath at the concession. “Yes, that’s a very good idea,” she told him cheerfully. Then, because she didn’t want him to dwell and because it had been a good day for Nate so far, she moved on to a topic that he wouldn’t find threatening. “Now, suppose you tell me about the new level of your game. What is your next challenge?”

Nate considered this question, then tilted his head and began to explain in tedious detail the challenges he faced in the game and how he planned to meet them.

Dora returned to the stove, careful to mutter, “Uh-huh,” from time to time as Nate prattled on. Her sauce had gone cold and all the giddiness that she’d experienced when reading the invitation fizzled in her chest, leaving her feeling flat. Mamaw had been clear that this was to be a girls-only weekend. Oh, Dora would have loved a weekend away from the countless monotonous chores for a few days of wine and laughter, of catching up with her sisters, of being a Summer Girl again. Only a few days . . . Was that too much to ask?

Apparently, it was. She’d called Cal soon after the invitation had arrived.

“What?” Cal’s voice rang in the receiver. “You want me to babysit? All weekend?”

Dora could feel her muscles tighten. “It will be fun. You never see Nate anymore.”

“No, it won’t be fun. You know how Nate gets when you leave. He won’t accept me as your substitute. He never does.”

She could hear in his voice that he was closing doors. “For pity’s sake, Cal. You’re his father. You have to figure it out!”

“Be reasonable, Dora. We both know Nate will never tolerate me or a babysitter. He gets very upset when you leave.”

Tears began to well in her eyes. “But I can’t bring him. It’s a girls-only weekend.” Dora lifted the invitation. “It says, ‘This invitation does not include husbands, beaus, or mothers.’ ”

Cal snorted. “Typical of your grandmother.”

“Cal, please . . .”

“I don’t see what the problem is,” he argued, exasperation creeping into his voice. “You always bring Nate along with you when you go to Sea Breeze. He knows the house, Mamaw . . .”

“But she said—”

“Frankly, I don’t care what she said,” Cal said, cutting her off. There was a pause, then he said with a coolness of tone she recognized as finality, “If you want to go to Mamaw’s, you’ll have to bring Nate. That’s all there is to it. Now good-bye.”

It had always been this way with Cal. He never sought to see all of Nate’s positive qualities—his humor, intelligence, diligence. Rather, Cal had resented the time she spent with their son and complained that their lives revolved around Nate and Nate alone. So, like an intractable child himself, Cal had left them both.

Dora’s shoulders slumped as she affixed Mamaw’s invitation to the refrigerator door with a magnet beside the grocery list and a school photo of her son. In it, Nate was scowling and his large eyes stared at the camera warily. Dora sighed, kissed the photo, and returned to cooking their dinner.

While she chopped onions, tears filled her eyes.


Harper Muir-James picked at the piece of toast like a bird. If she nibbled small pieces and chewed each one thoroughly, then sipped water between bites, she found she ate less. As she chewed, Harper’s mind was working through the onslaught of emotions that had been roiling since she opened the invitation in the morning’s mail. Harper held the invitation between her fingers and looked at the familiar blue-inked script.

“Mamaw,” she whispered, the name feeling foreign on her lips. It had been so long since she’d uttered the name aloud.

She propped the thick card up against the crystal vase of flowers on the marble breakfast table. Her mother insisted that all the rooms of their prewar condo overlooking Central Park always have fresh flowers. Georgiana had grown up at her family estate in England, where this had been de rigueur. Harper’s gaze lazily shifted from the invitation to the park outside her window. Spring had come to Central Park, changing the stark browns and grays of winter to an explosion of spring green. In her mind’s eye, however, the scene shifted to the greening cordgrass in the wetlands of the lowcountry, the snaking creeks dotted with docks, and the large, waxy white magnolia blooms against glossy green leaves.

Her feelings for her Southern grandmother were like the waterway that raced behind Sea Breeze—deep, and swelling with happy memories. In the invitation Mamaw had referred to her “Summer Girls.” That was a term Harper hadn’t heard—had not even thought about—in over a decade. She hadn’t been but twelve years old when she spent her last summer at Sea Breeze. How many times had she seen Mamaw in all those years? It surprised Harper to realize it had been only three times.

There had been so many invitations sent to her in those intervening years. So many regrets returned. Harper felt a twinge of shame as she pondered how she could have let so many years pass without paying Mamaw a visit.

“Harper? Where are you?” a voice called from the hall.

Harper coughed on a crumb of dry toast.

“Ah, there you are,” her mother said, walking into the kitchen.

Georgiana James never merely entered a room; she arrived. There was a rustle of fabric and an aura of sparks of energy radiating around her. Not to mention her perfume, which was like the blare of trumpets entering the room before her. As the executive editor of a major publishing house, Georgiana was always rushing—to meet a deadline, to meet someone for lunch or dinner, or to another in a string of endless meetings. When Georgiana wasn’t rushing off somewhere she was ensconced behind closed doors reading. In any case, Harper had seen little of her mother growing up. Now, at twenty-eight years of age, she worked as her mother’s private assistant. Though they lived together, Harper knew that she needed to make an appointment with her mother for a chat.

“I didn’t expect you to still be here,” Georgiana said, pecking her cheek.

“I was just leaving,” Harper replied, catching the hint of censure in the tone. Georgiana’s pale blue tweed jacket and navy pencil skirt fitted her petite frame impeccably. Harper glanced down at her own sleek black pencil skirt and gray silk blouse, checking for any loose thread or missing button that her mother’s hawk eye would pick up. Then, in what she hoped was a nonchalant move, she casually reached for the invitation that she’d foolishly propped up against the glass vase of flowers.

Too late.

“What’s that?” Georgiana asked, swooping down to grasp it. “An invitation?”

Harper’s stomach clenched and, not replying, she glanced up at her mother’s face. It was a beautiful face, in the way that a marble statue was beautiful. Her skin was as pale as alabaster, her cheekbones prominent, and her pale red hair was worn in a blunt cut that accentuated her pointed chin. There was never a strand out of place. Harper knew that at work they called her mother “the ice queen.” Rather than be offended, Harper thought the name fit. She watched her mother’s face as she read the invitation, saw her lips slowly tighten and her blue eyes turn frosty.

Georgiana’s gaze snapped up from the card to lock with Harper’s. “When did you get this?”

Harper was as petite as her mother and she had her pale complexion. But unlike her mother’s, Harper’s reserve was not cold but more akin to the stillness of prey.

Harper cleared her throat. Her voice came out soft and shaky. “Today. It came in the morning mail.”

Georgiana’s eyes flashed and she tapped the card against her palm with a snort of derision. “So the Southern belle is turning eighty.”

“Don’t call her that.”

“Why not?” Georgiana asked with a light laugh. “It’s the truth, isn’t it?”

“It isn’t nice.”

“Defensive, are we?” Georgiana said with a teasing lilt.

“Mamaw writes that she’s moving,” Harper said, changing the subject.

“She’s not fooling anyone. She’s tossing out that comment like bait to draw you girls in for some furniture or silver or whatever she has in that claptrap beach house.” Georgiana sniffed. “As if you’d be interested in anything she might call an antique.”

Harper frowned, annoyed by her mother’s snobbishness. Her family in England had antiques going back several hundred years. That didn’t diminish the lovely American antiques in Mamaw’s house, she thought. Not that Harper wanted anything. In truth, she was already inheriting more furniture and silver than she knew what to do with.

“That’s not why she’s invited us,” Harper argued. “Mamaw wants us all to come together again at Sea Breeze, one last time. Me, Carson, Dora . . .” She lifted her slight shoulders. “We had some good times there. I think it might be nice.”

Georgiana handed the invitation back to Harper. She held it between two red-tipped fingers as though it were foul. “Well, you can’t go, of course. Mum and a few guests are arriving from England the first of June. She’s expecting to see you in the Hamptons.”

“Mamaw’s party is on the twenty-sixth of May and Granny James won’t arrive until the following week. It shouldn’t be a problem. I can go to the party and be in the Hamptons in plenty of time.” Harper hurried to add, “I mean, it is Mamaw’s eightieth birthday after all. And I haven’t seen her in years.”

Harper saw her mother straighten her shoulders, her nostrils flaring as she tilted her chin, all signs Harper recognized as pique.

“Well,” Georgiana said, “if you want to waste your time, go ahead. I’m sure I can’t stop you.”

Harper pushed away her plate, her stomach clenching at the warning implicit in the statement: If you go I will not be pleased. Harper looked down at the navy-trimmed invitation and rubbed her thumb against the thick vellum, feeling its softness. She thought again of the summers at Sea Breeze, of Mamaw’s amused, tolerant smile at the antics of the Summer Girls.

Harper looked back at her mother and smiled cheerily. “All right then. I rather think I will go.”

Four weeks later Carson’s battered Volvo wagon limped over the Ben Sawyer Bridge toward Sullivan’s Island like an old horse heading to the barn. Carson turned off the music and the earth fell into a hush. The sky over the wetlands was a panorama of burnt sienna, tarnished gold, and moody shades of blue. The few wispy clouds would not mar the great fireball’s descent into the watery horizon.

She crossed the bridge and her wheels were on Sullivan’s Island. She was almost there. The reality of her decision made her fingers tap along the wheel in agitation. She was about to show up on Mamaw’s doorstep to stay for the entire summer. She sure hoped Mamaw had been sincere in that offer.

In short order Carson had given up her apartment, packed everything she could in her Volvo, and put the rest into storage. Staying with Mamaw provided Carson with a sanctuary while she hunted for a job and saved a few dollars. It had been an exhausting three-day journey from the West Coast to the East Coast, but she’d arrived at last, bleary-eyed and stiff-shouldered. Yet once she left the mainland, the scented island breezes gave her a second wind.

The road came to an intersection at Middle Street. Carson smiled at the sight of people sitting outdoors at restaurants, laughing and drinking as their dogs slept under the tables. It was early May. In a few weeks the summer season would begin and the restaurants would be overflowing with tourists.

Carson rolled down the window and let the ocean breeze waft in, balmy and sweet smelling. She was getting close now. She turned off Middle Street onto a narrow road heading away from the ocean to the back of the island. She passed Stella Maris Catholic Church, its proud steeple piercing a periwinkle sky.

The wheels crunched to a stop on the gravel and Carson’s hand clenched around the can of Red Bull she’d been nursing.

“Sea Breeze,” she murmured.

The historic house sat amid live oaks, palmettos, and scrub trees overlooking the beginning of where Cove Inlet separated Charleston Harbor from the Intracoastal Waterway. At first peek, Sea Breeze seemed a modest wood-framed house with a sweeping porch and a long flight of graceful stairs. Mamaw had had the original house raised onto pilings to protect it from tidal surges during storms. It was at that same time that Mamaw had added to the house, restored the guest cottage, and repaired the garage. This hodgepodge collection of wood-frame buildings might not have had the showy grandeur of the newer houses on Sullivan’s, Carson thought, but none of those houses could compare with Sea Breeze’s subtle, authentic charm.

Carson turned off the lights, closed her bleary eyes, and breathed out in relief. She’d made it. She’d journeyed twenty-five hundred miles and could still feel the rolling of them in her body. Sitting in the quiet car, she opened her eyes and stared out the windshield at Sea Breeze.

“Home,” she breathed, tasting the word on her lips. Such a strong word, laden with meaning and emotion, she thought, feeling suddenly unsure. Did birth alone give her the right to make that claim on this place? She was only a granddaughter, and not a very attentive one at that. Though, unlike the other girls, for her, Mamaw was more than a grandmother. She was the only mother Carson had ever known. Carson had been only four years old when her mother died and her father left her to stay with Mamaw while he went off to lick his wounds and find himself again. He came back for her four years later to move to California, but Carson had returned every summer after that until she was seventeen. Her love for Mamaw had always been like that porch light, the one true shining light in her heart when the world proved dark and scary.

Now, seeing Sea Breeze’s golden glow in the darkening sky, she felt ashamed. She didn’t deserve a warm welcome. She’d visited a handful of times in the past eighteen years—two funerals, a wedding, and a couple of holidays. She’d made too many excuses. Her cheeks flamed as she realized how selfish it was of her to assume that Mamaw would always be here, waiting for her. She swallowed hard, facing the truth that she likely wouldn’t even have come now except that she was broke and had nowhere else to go.

Her breath hitched as the front door opened and a woman stepped out onto the porch. She stood in the golden light, straight-backed and regal. In the glow, her wispy white hair created a halo around her head.

Carson’s eyes filled as she stepped from the car.

Mamaw lifted her arm in a wave.

Carson felt the tug of connection as she dragged her suitcase in the gravel toward the porch. As she drew near, Mamaw’s blue eyes shone bright and welcoming. Carson let go of her baggage and ran up the stairs into Mamaw’s open arms. She pressed her cheek against Mamaw’s, was enveloped in her scent, and all at once she was four years old again, motherless and afraid, her arms tight around Mamaw’s waist.

“Well now,” Mamaw said against her cheek. “You’re home at last. What took you so long?”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 45 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Exactly how long do we have to wait for the next book in this t


    Exactly how long do we have to wait for the next book in this trilogy?
    The Summer Girls was such an enjoyable read, Mary Alice has a way of pulling you into a story like no other!! I just loved it!!

    In this story we are introduced to Marietta "Mamaw" Muir and her three Granddaughters, "the Summer girls" , Carson, Harper , Eudora and her son Nate.
    It's a story about love and forgiveness, learning to put the past behind you and facing your demons. I love how Mary Alice developed all the characters in this book and so look forward to their continuing story in the next two books of this trilogy!

    Mary Alice brings South Carolina's Lowcountry alive with her descriptive prose and always gives her readers such valuable lessons on whatever topic she is writing about be it sea turtles, butterflies or as in this story dolphins! She is one writer that truly does her homework and researches her topic well!!

    Get comfy in your favorite chair and enjoy your visit to "Sea Breeze", you won't be disappointed!!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Mary Alice Monroe has done it again! She has written a book tha

    Mary Alice Monroe has done it again! She has written a book that entertains, educates, and inspires. You are immediately taken in by the characters and can't wait to find out more about them. The characters are so well presented you immediately feel as if you know them personally. Then to have the dolphin become so involved, and being able to learn more about a dolphin's ways just adds to the charm of the book. I am so glad there will be two more books in this series, because one is not enough. This book is highly recommended for all to read, as it makes one realize how important family relationships are and how marvelous all species are and how we are all connected.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2013

    I loved everything about this book. The family relationships,

    I loved everything about this book. The family relationships, the local color, the behavior of dolphins, etc., etc. Good story..... I also appreciated the fact that every other paragraph didn't use a four letter word. MAM's books leave me with a feeling of actually spending time in the low country.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2013

    A Story of Forgiveness---after years of Secrets, Silence, Enabling

    A beautifully written novel set in the Low Country of SC of three half-sisters (Carson, Harper, and Dora) finding their way back to one another for the summer at coastal Sea Breeze on Sullivan’s Island, with the help of their loving and aging grandmother, Mamaw. (love her)!. The one link is the deceased son/father, Parker, an alcoholic whose actions still affect the lives of all today.

    I enjoyed the characterization of the three different girls (Southern-Belle, LA, NY)--the paths their career and lives have taken, due to their past and father’s mistakes. (I relate most to Carson). She was the strongest---one with most of the problems, challenges, and learned to face them head-on, with the most growth.

    Brilliantly intertwined were real subjects of autism (Nate), alcoholism, enabling, abandonment, environmental issues, and the loveable and intriguing dolphins. The book included insightful research and education within this ecological setting. A warming story of nature and the human heart.

    A huge fan of Mary Alice Monroe, she has a way of digging into the complexity of human relationships. I look forward to the trilogy and hearing more about Blake/Carson, Nate/Dora, Harper/mother, and the warm and funny women relationship between Mamaw/Lucille (those two are quite the pair)--enjoy their banter.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2013

    Excellent Summer Read!This is definitely a perfect beach read!!

    Excellent Summer Read!This is definitely a perfect beach read!! I am usually a fast reader, but with this book, I took my time. I finished this book in about a week, and that’s pretty slow for me. Had I known BEFORE reading this book, that is was the first in a trilogy, I would have devoured it!! I just fell in love with the characters, each flawed, each with their own scars and stories, but all connected through the power of family. Mamaw is celebrating her 80th birthday, and her one wish is to bring 3 sisters together before she dies. While Mamaw is far from being on death’s door, she is quite passionate about seeing her granddaughters reconnect and share the sisterly bonds they held so tightly when they were younger.

    I loved all the different challenges these girls faced, because of the realism behind them all. Dora is the oldest, and is going through a divorce. She is the mom of an autistic son, and she is overwhelmed with the task of creating some normalcy for her son. Carson is the beauty, the sun bather, the one who takes risks and jumps with both feet in the water. She is also unemployed, single, and grappling with the challenges of trying to be financially secure and find her place in the world. Harper is the shy beauty, who is personal assistant to her narcissistic mother, and has been the least involved in the Muir family. With their own set of issues, they somehow find ways to come together and fulfill their Mamaw’s wish of spending the entire summer at Sea Breeze.

    The only downside to this book was that I felt the author really left me hanging. There wasn’t much resolve to some of the issues they all came with, but I’m okay with that!! Why??? Because it is the FIRST in a trilogy, and Mary Alice Monroe worked her magic…making me want more!! And, perhaps for Nate (and anyone else that loves dolphins), there is a lot of information about them at the end of the book!-booksintheburbs

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2013

    Autism, Beach, Challenges and Dolphins this new book by Mary Ali

    Autism, Beach, Challenges and Dolphins this new book by Mary Alice Monroe has it all!
    Just like the three sisters and their Mamaw in this book, you will laugh, cry, and think about what really matter in life. Of course one of the biggest ones being the love of family. Each woman faces their own challenges. The women and the challenges are different as night and day. However, one thing ties them all together painfully uncovering family secrets and problems left behind by a deceased alcholic family member. But the saddest part of this book was when i realized I was on the last page. This is the first in a triology and already can not wait to read the second! Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2013

    With great restraint, I was able to make my reading of The Summe

    With great restraint, I was able to make my reading of The Summer Girls last over the weekend. This had nothing to do with how good the book was, only that I didn't want to leave the story, and Sullivan's Island so soon.
    That is how it is with any book by Mary Alice Monroe. From the moment you start to read, you become one with the characters and their families, and their home becomes your home. Home, in The SummerGirls, is Sea Breeze, a house on Sullivan's Island, SC. It is here that Mamaw has decided to call her three granddaughters back for a birthday celebration-with a twist. She is hoping to use the promise of her treasures to convince them to spend the summer and reconnect. Like many wise grandmothers, Mamaw knows these half-sisters, who have had so little time together in recent years, need to find out how much being a family can mean to them. 
    They are so different, but yet have a few similarities, and each of them needs this time away to re-evaluate where their life is heading. It is exciting to read as they start remembering their days together as children on the island.
    Mary Alice Monroe has written about many environmental issues and endangered species in the past-sea turtles, sweetgrass, birds of prey and the Monarch Butterfly to name a few. In this book, she educates the reader about the wild Bottlenose Dolphin that lives in our Atlantic Oceans. You will learn about the things that threaten it, and also the agencies that protect it and the facilities that rehabilitate the injured ones. 
    I know I will be thinking of all the characters in this book for quite awhile. After all, they are a part of me now. It is going to be a long year before the second book in this trilogy comes out! 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2013

    I am now dolphin smart! I will share my knowledge about dolphin

    I am now dolphin smart! I will share my knowledge about dolphins after finishing this enchanting story of the heart! I am always inspired by the nature of MAM's novels and dolphins are my favorite sea creature! When I read the teaser, I was enthusiastic about learning the personality and character of each sister. "The Summer Girls" is so much more! I think we can all see a part of ourselves in each girl. They are now my friends! Lucille is also so important to the family. "Mamaw felt a rush of love for her, thinking how those hands formed the bedrock of her world." Mamaw could see herself through Carson because of their ability to be strong in a heartbreaking world. "Mamaw looked into Carson's eyes and thanked her, As she spoke the words, she wondered at the perspicacity of the woman who could capture glimpses of someone's soul." The calming effect of the life of the ocean is well illustrated in "The Summer Girls." I love this quote, "The tides breathed in and out of the wetlands, their rhythms as complex and interconnected as the veins in her body." I have chosen many quotes that touch my soul and I will finish with my favorite..."She put her hand in the water and let it drag in the wake. She felt its coolness and felt connected to this water and everything in it. She gazed up into the infinite sky and felt connected to the birds of the air, the clouds, the grass that surrounded her, and creatures of the sea. She felt this in her deepest nature. She was part of something so much bigger that herself. And this realization simultaneously made her feel more vulnerable and stronger that she ever had before." "The Summer Girls" will touch your heart and soul! You will want to read all of Mary Alice Monroe's novels if you haven't already! I am so looking forward to the next MAM novel!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I read The Summer Girls this week and at the end of the book, I

    I read The Summer Girls this week and at the end of the book, I wanted to know more! I had been looking forward to reading the most recent book by Mary Alice Monroe and this one did not disappoint. As I read I could almost sense the sun on my shoulders, the sea spray upon my face, the smell of the sea grass, and the feel of the sand on my feet....the Carolina beach!

    The author has written with a depth of understanding about the emotions of love and longing for family acceptance in a dysfunctional setting. The family members are not presented as being perfect, they each have problems they must come to terms with and make serious decisions. The family dynamic is compounded by the troubles regarding growing up with an alcoholic father, either dependent upon or absent from the lives of Dora, Carson, and Harper. Over the course of years Mamaw’s ‘Summer Girls’ deal with fragile feelings, misunderstood actions, and the possibility of a genetic factor which will affect each of them personally.

    The grandmother wants to see the girls weave a bond of sisterhood within their lives before the girls grow older. She also has some secrets which must be revealed and confronted. The girls experience a wary acceptance of each other as they remember childhood laughter, emotional hurt and resentments of feeling rejected during their past years. As the story unfolds for the girls and Mamaw, I found myself drawn to the emerging strengths of Dora, Carson, and Harper.

    The storyline also addresses the possible consequences of our actions due to our love for the mammals of the sea, especially the dolphins. Now when I vacation in the lowcountry and the beach towns, I will be more aware of the results of trying to become too close to the dolphins. There are some heartrending scenes in the book which will give insight to crossing boundaries with wild nature even when we think we are helping. The relationship between little Nate and Delphine is a prime example of how our very best of intentions can go extremely awry.

    There are layers to the book which make this story more than a ‘chic lit’ beach read for this summer. The different levels of family interaction and responses during tragedy and in times of joy are heartfelt. I enjoyed the book and anxiously wait to read more about this family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2014

    Summer Girls

    Is a very good book. I highly recommend reading the book.

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  • Posted August 10, 2014

    One of the best books I have read in a long time.  Couldn't put

    One of the best books I have read in a long time.  Couldn't put it down.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    Can't wait to read more of this author's book. GREAT !

    Can't wait to read more of this author's book. GREAT !

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  • Posted June 27, 2014

    Enjoyable summer read

    This was a good story. I especially liked learning about the dolphin. I would recommend the story and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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  • Posted June 27, 2014

    Great reading

    I really liked this book. Made me wish that I had a close relationship with some of my sisters. Can't wait to read more of this author's book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    Game Guide and co.

    We walk in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    Crisk

    "I mean...i combined my names." She grins.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2014

    Vynx

    Hi.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    Firework

    Looks at Vynx "Hi!"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2014

    Loved the book

    This was a nice story which brought pleasant memories back to me of e special time I spent with my grandmother during the summer..light read but had some interesting tangles. Whereare the other books.? Itleft me with wanting to hear more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2014

    Another Monroe Winner

    I love all the Mary Alice Monroe books and this one was no disappointment. I'm glad that it's the first and that there will be a next one that I can be absorbed in. I just can't wait for the next one.

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