Siddons, as always, is a terrific storyteller who knows how to hook readers.
Ranks with the best of Siddons' novels.
Fans will find some familiar elements here: a sympathetic Southern heroine, an unlikely love interest, and a South Carolina low country setting fragrant with salt air. Caro Venable is a captivating mix of beauty queen, drunk, artist, dutiful corporate wife, and mother still grieving her daughter's drowning. Her love of Peacock's Island clashes with her developer husband's plans to subdivide her grandfather's land and turn its native tribal settlement into a "theme park." Caro is also tempted by a wild, rebellious Cuban botanist who shares her love for the unspoiled island. The novel ends with a circle of completeness: a corrupt husband returning to his decent self, a wife returning to her husband's love, an orphaned child filling the void left by a girl's death, and the island saved from development. Readers of Siddons's other books (Up Island, HarperCollins, 1997) will not be disappointed. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/98.] --Carol J. Bissett
Anne Rivers Siddons' novels are women's stories in the best sense, pulling you into the internal landscape of her characters' lives and holding you there.
Familiar ground for the prolific Siddons ( Up Island 1997), though her latest saga of the South replaces gothic melodrama with well-honed emotion. Narrated by Caro, independent-minded but burdened by sorrow after the death of her daughter, the story begins with this melancholy mother's retreat to 'the island.' Hugging the South Carolina coast, the small marsh isle is part of Caro's inheritance and heritage; staying in her grandfather's house, she goes to paint and ease her sadness.
Amid evocative description of the island's lowlands, the sound of wild ponies, and visions of untouched woods, the plot takes shape: Caro's husband Clay, a successful land developer, has put his sights on her island, a prime piece of real estate. Unbeknownst to Caro, her husband's empire is on the verge of financial ruin, and only a new housing development can save his existing ventureseverything they have built together in their long marriage. Moreover, the development of the island risks not only a natural habitat and Caro's solitude but also one of America's few intact Gullah communities, which Clay's company hopes to turn into a theme park. Having known the community her whole life, and appreciating the resilience and wisdom of ancient conjure woman Auntie Tuesday and other locals, Caro is ravaged by the idea of seeing them posing for tourist photographs. Gradually, Caro begins to wake from the resigned sleep she's been living in and fight for her landwhich also means fighting against her much loved husband and son's future. A delicate, compelling tale, full of real feeling and lush description. A treat for Siddons fans.