Customer Reviews: The Beach House
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on June 22, 2002
This is the first Mary Alice Monroe book I've ever read-and let me tell you I definitely plan to read her other works, too. From the very first page it's like the story and characters catch your attention right away. The info that heads each chapter regarding the sea turtles is actually quite interesting, and I was saddened to read at the end of the book how they are quickly becoming an endangered species. This story of how Cara Rutledge, after losing her job at a Chicago advertising firm, returns home to her mother's beach house in Isle of Palms, SC, is a very warm, touching one that explains how she finally bonds with her seriously ill mother-Olivia(Lovie)Rutledge, having left home at 18 due to constantly fighting with her father. Cara reconnects with her childhood best pal Emmi, plus finds true love when least expected. Lovie's houseguest(and caretaker)Toy Sooner is another memorable character-her initial meeting up with Cara is not a good one but soon the two of them learn to accept one another as well as become fast friends. This story is one you'll definitely remember long after the last page has been turned. Very highly recommended.
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on June 24, 2002
It's not often that a book brings me to and makes me want to write a review. I read other reviews constantly, but I don't often write them. Well, I loved this book so much, I just had to share. I loved the whole beach theme, I loved learning about the loggerhead turtles and their significance to the story, I loved that Cara was not a whimp (especially when she confronts Richard towards to end), who could not love Brett???, I loved the way Mary Alice Monroe makes you feel you are right there on the beach and the way she makes you truly FEEL for these characters. I loved the way the author had several stories going on a once and concluded them all in a fine manner. This was a truly wonderful read and I highly recommend it - get lost in South Carolina on the Isle of Palms with the loggerhead turtles and some fine characters. ENJOY!!
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on February 3, 2003
If you left home at 18 because your father emotionally abused you and you hated your mother for not protecting you, should you go home again? If you find yourself at the height of your career in fast-paced Chicago, should you return to the laid-back life of the South Carolina low country? If your name is Cara Rutledge, the answer to both questions is yes. When Cara finds herself ousted from her ad agency position, her ongoing love affair not fulfilling, and nowhere else to turn, she reluctantly answers her mother's call to come for a visit.
The reader will be drawn immediately into this story mainly because of well-defined characters who tug at your heartstrings. From the headstrong yet vulnerable Cara to her terminally ill mother Lovie and the pregnant teenager Toy, readers will bond with these multi-faceted characters as they try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and each moves on with the support of the others.
This book is a great tribute to the eternal bond between mothers and daughters as it examines the actions that part us from our loved ones and the painful road back to rediscovering love. It is also a great love story as Cara finds her soulmate in the most unexpected place, her mother reveals a long-held secret love affair,and Toy faces some serious truths about the father of her unborn child. It is also a story about turtles. Yes, turtles. Specifically, the loggerhead turtles who travel hundreds of miles to hatch their young along the South Carolina coast each year. Even if you've never given the first thought to turtles, you will be captivated by the turtle trivia that fills this book.
I highly recommend you curl up in your favorite reading spot for a most enjoyable read about an unforgettable family. And don't forget the tissues.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon May 21, 2012
When this book first came out in 2002, I thought the cover was fabulous and bought the paperback on a whim. I really was unaware of this category of novel called "beach book" at the time so this was my first exposure. I absolutely loved it from beginning to end. It has stuck in my mind over the years and has pretty much become my gold standard by which I judge all other beach reads. In a fit of de-cluttering a few years back, I donated the book but still remembered it fondly. I saw that a new novel was being published by the same author and the title was "Beach House Memories". Upon further investigation, I realized it is related to the first novel and tells the story of Olivia and Russell. Since I had loved the book so much, I purchased it again for my Kindle to re-read prior to reading "Beach House Memories".

On the few times I have gone back to re-read a book I have loved, about half the time it's as good as I remember and the other half the time I wonder what I was thinking. In this instance, it was every bit as good as the first time through. Mary Alice Monroe manages to blend a great, light beach read with story lines of substance. Throw in a bit of environmental awareness - in this case the loggerhead turtles - and you have a novel that just shines. While the set-up of the narrative has become tried and true, in the hands of this author, it doesn't feel worn out or over used. Cara finds herself unexpectedly fired from her high-powered job in Chicago. At the same time, she receives an appeal from her mother to return to the Isle of Palms for a visit and so that they can spend some time sorting through things. The relationship between the two has not been good for over twenty years but Cara complies. All the history between the two women unfolds over the course of the novel. The characters are very well drawn, the pacing of the narrative is perfect, and the ocean-side setting is so well described I felt like I was on the beach with them.

I love this book and look forward to reading "Beach House Memories".

Note: "Swimming Lessons" is also part of the trilogy. It was written after "The Beach House" and tells the story of Toy.

For some reason, the Kindle version of this novel is not linking to the other formats. There are over 80 reviews posted if you look up the paperback and hardback versions.
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on August 6, 2002
The Beach House, by Mary Alice Monroe, is a story about family and the strangled relationships that often exist within them. Mother and daughter, Olivia and Caretta Rutledge, are from upper crust Charleston, live in an old mansion, have a beach house on the Isle of Palms, and for all appearances, have charmed lives. However, underneath all the glamour lies a history of anger, repression, and violence. That the two women chose totally different ways to cope with the disfunction in their family wrenches them apart for twenty years and it is only when Olivia is old and dying, that Cara forces herself to return.
Caretta, a successful and self-made business woman in Chicago, comes home to visit at the beach house on the Isle of Palms and finds what her previous life has been missing: love, affection, trust, companionship, family. In only a short summer, she forms a new family with her mother, a young pregnant teenager and the Turtle Team, a group who monitors and protects Loggerhead Sea Turtle nests. Her hesitance at first grows into wonder as she observes her first nest of hatchlings in the South Carolina moonlight.
There is also a romantic element that is good enough to make you happy for the couple and hope for their future. In the end, a hurricane swipes the island and forces the realization of just how much it all means.
This is not a deep or philosophical book but the story of human contact and the need for love and understanding make for a good read. The turtle storyline is informative and interesting as well as consciousness raising. A good book for mothers and daughters whose relationships need work and a perfect one for reading on the beach.
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on November 26, 2006
I love stories about the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, especially when childhood issues that once divided them are reconciled when seen through the daughter's adult eyes. Mary Alice Monroe has quickly become one of my favorite authors because of the touchingly brilliant way her characters interact with each other - it's highly romantic without being a romance novel. The setting of this book, on the Isle of Palms and the turtle rescue mission, added interest and depth to the story, as did the colorful secondary characters and the lowcountry lifestyle. One of the best books I've read this year!
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on August 5, 2005
I read this book while vacationing at the Isle of Palms - it was wonderful! The settings, descriptions of the area, and especially the information about the loggerhead turtles - all were things I could identify and experience, and made me appreciate our week at the beach even more. A delightful read!
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on April 12, 2004
This book was highly advertised the last time I was in Charleston, SC. Being in need of something new to read, I bought it from the area Barnes and Noble dealer. I have to say that this is one of the best books I have ever read. The story line is such a strong one that it made me want to try to do a lot more with my own mother because you just never know when something could happen to any of us. In addition, the book draws wonderful parallels to the life of the loggerhead turtles, one of my favorite animals. These gracious animals need good people to help them become a revived species, and Ms. Monroe does a beautiful job of describing the activities of the Turtle Team and makes you, the reader, want to help out! The turtles, along with Lovie, are gracious beings that spread goodness throughout the entire book. Again, it makes the reader want to be a decent and kind human being. This book is a must read. I am keeping it and sharing it with my mother hoping she will enjoy it as much as I did.
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on June 8, 2012
Love this book. It is a must read for anyone who has a mom, loves the beach, loves sea life and/or animals. Picked it up when it first came out and I could not put it down. Read the book cover to cover in two days. Caretta Rutledge is such a rich character and the book has a great storyline. This book inspired me to take my two young children to the Isle of Palms, SC. As luck would have it on an evening beach walk we passed the "turtle ladies". They invited us to join them as they attended a nest of sea turtles. There were 9 baby sea turtles that made their way to the ocean that night. On top of being a great story, this book sent me to a beautiful location, full of wonderful people and an experience of a lifetime.
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on June 8, 2003
A wonderful book and true to the last detail of "Low Country" living. Yes, Florida reader, the sun does set over the Atlantic Ocean if you are lucky enough to be on a "Barrier Island". The movie "Baggar Vance" which was filmed on Kiawah Island, SC has a fabulous sunset scene over the Atlantic Ocean. Some of our barrier islands run East-West and magnificient sunsets can been seen most nights. I loved the book and love being lucky enough to live on a barrier island until the next hurricane.
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