This week’s cozy read is another by Karen White but is a standalone rather than part of a series. The Beach Trees takes place in the New Orleans/Biloxi area and features a young woman named Julie Holt who has inherited a 5-year-old boy from her best friend sending her life in a whole new and unfamiliar direction.
From the back cover:
Working at an auction house in New York, Julie Holt meets a struggling artist and single mother who reminds her very much of her missing younger sister. Monica Guidry paints a vivid picture of her Southern family throughs stories, but never says why or how she lost contact with them. And she has another secret: a heart condition that will soon taker her life.
Feeling as if she’s lost her sister a second time, Julie inherits from Moncia an antique portrait — as well as custody of her young son. Taking him to Biloxi, Mississippi, to meet the family he’s never known, Julie discovers a connection of her own. The portrait , of an old Giudry relative, was done by her great grandfather — and unlocks a surprising family history . . .
This is a story told from two different 1st person perspectives: the current day story of Julie as she struggles to find a way to honour her friend Monica’s wishes that she be guardian of her son Beau in her home town of New Orleans, and the backstory of the Guidry family as told by Aimee, the great aunt who raised Monica and her brother Trey.
I found this to be a very slow-paced book that was difficult to keep reading. Disappointing after I enjoyed the previous book I had read by White. I stuck with it but found it quite predictable. The title comes from the trees along the beach in Biloxi, trees that were killed by hurricane Katrina and subsequently sculpted by artists into wildlife — herons, dolphins, marlins, penguins — as a sign of hope, life going on despite devastation. It represents all of the characters in the book as they try to make sense of some secrets, murders, and disappearances. That sounds like it should be pretty exciting but I felt no urgency to read late into the night or even to read instead of watching TV. While at times I felt the writing was beautiful when describing settings or even Julie’s thoughts as she tries to come to terms with her situation, at times I felt Aimee’s story — which she relates to Julie — was more like an author writing for a reader rather than someone sharing her past experiences with a friend. I really never understood Trey’s hostility toward Julie at the beginning and found his change in attitude rather abrupt. This is a good story, a slow read, rather long and predictable but with some interesting, redeeming qualities and worth reading. It would have been nice if there had a been a picture of one of the Biloxi tree sculptures on the cover. They can be found on the web however and I’m including a few here. * * 1/2