With lyrical prose and haunting imagery, the author tells the numerous stories that make up Beach Music: A Novel, beginning by introducing the characters of Jack McCall and his daughter Leah, who have fled to Rome after the suicide of Shyla, Jack’s wife and Leah’s mother.
Jack grew up in Waterford, South Carolina, a true Southerner blessed with all that makes a person feel that particular spirit and identity. Coming of age with the sound of the waves and the beach music that lulls the nighttime moments and greets the day with each sunrise, a child can come to a true understanding of all that Nature has to give.
Narrated in Jack’s first person voice, the story helps us feel the lost little boy inside, along with the angry, embittered soul who has been scarred by tragedy and betrayal. Each decade of his life has been marked by something auspicious, just as it has for his whole generation. But others have their stories, too, and Shyla’s parents, George and Ruth Fox, barely escaped the Holocaust to live to tell about it. But they kept their true stories hidden, even as those tales would mark their lives indelibly, just as the next generation would be marked by the Sixties and the lingering trauma of the Vietnam War. And Jack’s own mother Lucy, who created a fictional background, has a true story to share as well.
While some of the stories are poignant and bring us the powerful moments of young childhood and early adolescence, with the fishing trips and the childish pranks, it would be the betrayals of a contentious Antiwar Movement and those who would turn on their best friends that would remind us that nothing can injure us more in life than the turning away of those we call friends or family.
What has to happen to bring Jack home to South Carolina? What will he discover about his family and his legacy that will ultimately allow him to heal? And what mock trial staged by an old friend will finally bring out those last hidden truths and show Jack how to forgive?
There is nothing like an epic story told with special attention to the details, as well as one that allows the thoughts and feelings of the characters to unfold gradually, that can bring the reader into the midst of the tale and feel along with the characters. An unforgettable novel. 5 stars.