Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks ISBN 9780062319180
Trade paperback, $14.99, 401 pages
Summer arrives today and has many of us in mind of spending time at the beach. Shelley Noble's new novel, Whisper Beach, is set at a Jersey Shore beach town, a place where the economy of the town depends on the tourists who visit each summer, and where Hurricane Sandy took its toll.
Vanessa Moran is returning to her hometown for the funeral of her cousin's husband. She left home suddenly fifteen years ago after finding herself pregnant at the age of seventeen, and after finding her boyfriend with another woman.
Van made a life for herself, building a successful career as a life organizer for wealthy Manhattanites. She is nervous about coming home and facing the people she left behind.
Her cousin Gigi, who lost her husband, breaks down when she sees Van. Gigi gave Van $2000, all the money she had saved for college, so that Van could leave town fifteen years ago. Suze, a good friend who became a college professor, convinced Van to join her at the funeral.
Dorie owns the Blue Crab Restaurant where all the girls worked in high school, and her home was always open to anyone who needed guidance or a place to stay. The restaurant has fallen on hard times, and Van decides to stay in town for a week to use her organizational skills to help Dorie.
And then there is Joe, the man Van loved and left all those years ago. He never knew why Van left, and no other woman could fill the void she left behind. Although I did think it was strange that when Van returned home after twelve years, all anybody asked her was if she was getting back with Joe.
Noble really nails the feel of a small town, how everyone knows everybody's business, and how a lethargy can sometimes become overwhelming for those whose lives stay the same day after day. They don't seem to have the energy or gumption to make life happen for them, they just let life happen to them.
There's the one bar that everyone goes to, the town bully who became a cop, throws his weight around and hits his girlfriend, and the bartender who listens to problems and tries to keep the peace.
I enjoyed the storyline about Van reorganizing the Blue Crab. My husband and I owned a few small restaurants, so I found that interesting on a another level.
Reinventing oneself is a big theme here, as Van did when she left town, and Joe does when his family loses the farm. He teaches himself how to grow grapes and plans on building a winery on the land his family has left. And someone whom Van would never have thought could ever change, shows up at the end of the book a completely different person.
Uncle Nate, Van's drunken father's brother, is a great character. He loves his family and is concerned about his daughter Gigi and how she has just given up on life. He tries to explain to Van that her father wasn't always a terrible man, he had some terrible disappointments in life and Van's mother had issues Van didn't know about.
Noble has a great take on friendship here, on how you can not see someone for a long time, but still care for them and even fall back into old patterns when you see them. Time and experience also allows you see things in a different light, and to see how changing old patterns can be enlightening and helpful.
Whisper Beach is deeper than a traditional beach read, with more substance to it than the usual boy-meets-girl. The characters are deeper and therefore more interesting. Fans of Kristin Hannah and Elin Hilderbrand will like this one.
Shelley Noble's website is here.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Shelly Noble's tour. The rest of Shelley's stops are here: