A beach read, and more

I’ve followed Kristy Woodson Harvey’s writing career from the beginning, and I’ve enjoyed every step of the journey.

Reviewed by Linda C. Brinson

FEELS LIKE FALLING. By Kristy Woodson Harvey. Gallery Books, Simon & Schuster. 384 pages. $16.99, paperback.

Whether you’re heading to one of the recently re-opened beaches or passing the time at home, Kristy Woodson Harvey offers a new book likely to enhance your leisure time.

Harvey, a graduate of the UNC Chapel Hill journalism school, has been making quite a name for herself as a fiction writer over the last five or so years. She’s published two previous stand-alone novels and the Peachtree Bluff trilogy, all well received.

Though Harvey lives in Beaufort along what’s become known as North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, and readers who know that area will find that Peachtree Bluff seems mighty familiar, the series is officially set on Georgia’s coast. (Harvey said in an interview when the series debuted that someone at the publishing house thought there were too many novels set on North Carolina’s coast.)

But this new, stand-alone novel comes unapologetically home to the shores of North Carolina.

As with her other books, those who like to slot books into genres will call this one something like Dixie Chick Lit. It’s definitely a contemporary Southern novel, and because it’s mostly about the lives and concerns of women, most of its readers will be women.

But don’t let any of that make you think this is a shallow, clichéd or overly trendy book. Far from it. Once again, Harvey has pulled off the impressive feat of writing a novel that’s highly entertaining, fairly light reading, but also well written. Her books have complex, well-developed characters who often defy stereotypes. They take on serious issues a lot of women face, and they offer uplifting messages without seeming preachy.

Harvey is adept at using multiple points of view. This time, there are two primary characters whose very different lives intersect more or less by chance. Gray Howard is a well-to-do entrepreneur who built her own company and seems to lead the perfect life. She has her business, a husband and a darling son, and she gets to spend every summer at her beach house and the club at Cape Carolina.

Only this summer, she’s dealing with the recent death of her mother, her sister’s marriage to someone who seems a lot like a cult leader, and her husband’s decision to leave her in favor of the young executive assistant Gray had hired to help him with his job in her company. Oh, and her husband wants to share custody of their son and take half the business she built.

Diana Harrington, meanwhile, lives a life that could hardly be more different. She’s dealt with one disappointment after another. Having just left the latest in a series of no-good boyfriends, she’s reduced to living in her beat-up car. 

After Gray learns she inadvertently contributed to Diana’s getting fired from her job, she invites Diana to come to work for her and live in the guesthouse.

An unlikely friendship develops, one that turns out to be good for both of them as they work their way through changes in their lives and their attitudes. We follow their halting attempts to figure things out, reinvent their lives and learn from their mistakes, and we see how their unlikely friendship helps them both. There are wisdom and insight here, wrapped in a story that’s fun to read.

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