Jessie, a forties-ish wife and mother whose only child has gone off to college, is a bit bored and stuck in her life. One Ash Wednesday she is summoned home to Egret Island because her mother has purposely cut off a finger. While on the island she meets Brother Thomas and is drawn to him.
The book follows Jessie’s journey to the next stage in her life. It was one of those “just one more chapter” books for me and I enjoyed reading it. I wasn’t in love with the Secret Life of Bees the way the rest of the country seemed to be, but her plot is believable and interesting enough and the book didn’t end the way I thought it would.
Two things were distracting. At the start of the book, it seemed to be set in the generic “present,” but as the book goes on, it gradually becomes apparent that it is set in the 1980s. I spent a lot of time thinking, “Wait, why does she have a walkman?” “Why is she listening to tapes?” “Why wouldn’t they just use a helicopter?” By the end of the book it was clearly set in the 1980s, but I couldn’t figure out why it needed to be.
Also, and this may have been my fault as I may have skimmed right over some description that solved this mystery for me, I spent most of the book wondering if the character if Hepzibah was African American or not. This shouldn’t matter, but it did. Was she a nice white woman who had taken on the interesting history of freed slaves on Egret Island? Or was she the only black woman on Egret Island and thus it made sense that she would take care of the old slave cemetery? It turned out she was African American.
Overall, good book.