I chose this book specifically for the Southern Reading challenge. I hadn’t heard of it before but recognised the author from The Secret Life of Bees which I haven’t read but did half watch the movie on a flight last year and enjoyed it.
Jessie is 42 years old, married with one grown up daughter who has recently left home to go to university. Her husband Hugh is a respected psychiatrist, capable both at work and at home. A good husband. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for his character whose only fault seemed to be that he was too accomplished and competent. Jessie is an artist, a painter, although she hasn’t painted much of late and is feeling a vague sense of disatisfaction with her life. She can’t put her finger on why but attributes it to her daughter recently leaving home perhaps.
Jessie was born and raised on the fictional island of Egret. Sue Monk Kidd based Egret Island on the real life Bull Island in South Carolina and does a lovely job of portraying the island with it’s numerous birds and wildlife living in a protected sanctuary. Jessie growing up, was more aware of the sense of isolation living on an island accessible only by ferry. This, combined with the early death of her father in an accident she feels responsible for, means she hasn’t been back to Egret Island and to her mother who still lives there in a fragile mental stage, for many years.
She then receives news that her mother is unwell and has deliberately chopped off one of her fingers. Jessie returns to the island to try and help her mother and to face her childhood demons. There is a monastry on the island, Jessie finds herself attracted to Brother Thomas, the youngest of the monks, who is soon to take his final vows. The attraction is mutual.
This story is one of self discovery and reclaimation, reconnecting with roots, mending broken relationships and learning to forgive. I really like Sue Monk Kidd’s gentle writing style, and I enjoyed the traditions and myths that were weaved into the story.
Challenges: Southern Reading, Support your local library