Turtles are the best!
It’s still summer so this week I am reviewing a summer book. The fact that pumpkin spice food is showing up and lots of kids are back in school will not deter me from remembering that we still have a month to go before fall.!
Beach House Reunion is the fifth book in a series about people who live in or come back to a beach house. Written by Mary Alice Monroe, the series is fairly popular and she has certainly hit best seller lists on multiple occasions. If you’re a big fan of hers, you probably are not going to like what I have to say about it. I can see how a certain audience would enjoy this book and I will say that the descriptions of the scenery are poetic and lovely. In addition I can respect the love for the environment and the health of an endangered species that the author shows. The rest of the book though, I could never get into.
The story centers on a few people of different generations who for one reason or another have come back to a beach house to spend the summer or in some cases, the rest of their lives in Charleston, South Carolina. The main focus is on the Rutledge family.
The story mostly centered on Cara, a widowed mother who has just adopted. She spends a good third of the book thinking about how she might be too old to be a mother. I get how you might see that as a problem but she really goes on and on about it. She spends all kinds of time looking for a babysitter for her daughter Hope. She seems gobsmacked to find out that there is something called a nanny. Then her niece Linnea is conscripted for the job and Cara can finally get some work done.
Linnea has her own issues with finding herself a job, you know, other than the nanny thing, and meets and falls in love with a guy named John. Her brother Cooper Pringle Ruteledge (the most one percent name ever) is in over his head with drugs and alcohol because he wants to go to USC and why can’t they just let him go to USC cause he really needs to go to USC.
The whole story is framed with facts about turtles and sea life which I think is supposed to be some kind of metaphor for these women. Also, they are apparently in a group called “Turtle Ladies” that looks for turtle nests to help with the population of the turtles. The turtle facts were probably the best part of this book.
There’s a few other side plots going on but those are the main thrust of the story. I had a few issues with the book so I am going to do my public airing of grievances below.
- Cara, desperate and tired looks at her adopted daughter and for a moment sees her own mother. Now, personally if I see that, I am making an appointment with a shrink but, nope this all seems perfectly normal to Cara.
- Later in the book, Cara feels like the ocean and a piece of furniture are her dead husband telling her it’s okay to like, move on and date a new guy. Again, I’d call that hallucinatory but whatever.
- Because she feels like she never totally got to say goodbye to her husband, Cara, digs a hole in the beach and has Hope drop her wedding ring in it. Really? I mean I get you don’t want to wear it but that seriously seems like a waste. At this point I am really concerned that Cara needs some professional help, stat.
- Also, Cara adopted a baby girl named Esperanza which I think is a great name. What does Cara do? Immediately translates that pretty name into boring old Hope. It’s her daughter and she can do what she wants but I felt like Esperanza would have been a fine name.
- At one point Cara is talking to David, the guy she starts dating, and says that he is a “manny” – a male nanny. We don’t need to do that. If you are a guy who is a nanny, you can be a nanny, you don’t have to man-ify it.
- I know that as new parents it’s hard to be able to do everything but at one point when Hope is crying, instead of hold, comfort or play with her, Cara looks up what to do about crying babies on google. Seems like she might have wanted to read a parenting book at some point? You, know after you get Hope to settle down.
- David gives Cara a Burberry bag from Harrod’s and she tries to refuse it but then David says it’s insulting not to let a man pick up a tab for a woman. This is not the 1940’s and women can pay for stuff if they want to. There are waaay too many cases of men controlling women by taking control of their finances. How do they start that? By insisting that they should pay for everything. I know it’s not meant that way in the book but I just got tired of the rampant gender stereotyping in this book. Like really tired of it.
- Cara came from an abusive home from what I can gather from this book. Her father used to get physically violent and her mother did not protect her from it. At one point her brother, Palmer, who is the father of Linnea and Cooper is showing clear signs of alcoholism just like Cara’s father did. Cara doesn’t do much to help him but just thinks he has to hit rock bottom for the cycle to end. Here’s what rock bottom is – throwing a bottle of bourbon at huge portrait and almost hitting your daughter. The fact that he doesn’t hit his daughter, in Cara’s mind, means the whole cycle has ended. B.S. this dude is going to get worse. He does end up going to AA and that might help but I just thought Cara’s attitude about the whole thing was dangerously passive.
- Also, these people are stinking rich. They own this import/export business. It wasn’t clear what the goods were but that might have been covered in past books. They have big blow up arguments over what prestigious college their kids will attend and you know, own beach houses. Kinda tired of the filthy rich in real life, so reading about them in fiction (when they are not named Jay Gatsby) gets tiresome to me.
- There is wine or alcohol mentioned like every other passage, yet they wonder why Cooper gets a DUI and overdoses. Can’t have anything to do with the constant availability of alcohol can it??
- I also had a real hard time with the relationship between Linnea and John. John is a surfer who is staying for the summer before he goes back to San Francisco. He was born in the south and so does have relatives there and I think Linnea’s family knew his somehow but that wasn’t super clear to me. Again that could have been covered in a previous book. But boy howdy did I find this whole thing unbelievable.
- John and Linnea first bond over the film Gidget and then later over the poem The Highwayman. I am not saying either of those things are bad but it made me wonder if they were college aged, or in their eighties. Gidget? Really? I mean come on, use a more modern reference to relate to the youth.
- Linnea meets John because she tries to surf on her own and wipes out completely. The book says she looked up some YouTube videos on how to do it before she went. I gotta say, those videos were made by the worst surfers ever. First off, she went surfing alone. No surfer should do that. Second, she didn’t have a leash for the board, didn’t know what it meant to be goofy footed and had no idea how to push up off the board. These are seriously basic things I know and I don’t even surf!
- At one point John hands Linnea a bottle of water out of a cooler. But before he gives it to her, he wipes it off with a towel and opens it. She is all impressed but what I thought was she is not a toddler!
- Also, John is supposed to be a great surfer but he wants to go swimming at night in dark water. Hello! Did you not see Jaws? Oh yeah, you were too busy watching Gidget.
- Towards the end of the book, after one summer together John invites Linnea to come to San Francisco with him to try and get a job. It seemed very transactional and not that romantic all in all but then Linnea sort of implies her father wouldn’t want her to go there without being married. John reasonably says that’s a bit much and Linnea totally agrees, But then she is disappointed he didn’t ask her anyway. Which is it? Also, do you really want to marry a guy you have known for like three months? That’s a bit of a rush.
- My final question about this book has to do with the “Turtle Ladies”. Do you have to be a woman to join this thing? What if a guy loves turtles too? Are you going to exclude him? Even if he is a manny?
Next week I will be back with another summer read as I review Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler.