What could be more appropriate for a long hot summer afternoon then curling up with a book set on the beach front at Anna Maria Island in Florida? Even the cover looks cool and refreshing. Like most readers, I put a great deal of stock in book covers. If I haven’t read the author before, I usually study the cover and then flip the book over and read the teaser on the back.
On first read, the back cover text was confusing. It talked about a family vacation spot in Anna Maria Island and then in the next paragraph referred to the family’s waterfront condo in Baltimore. Further down colorful characters from the Ringling’s Ca d’Zan mansion was mentioned, and I’m thinking clowns, acrobats in sequin costumes and maybe a lion tamer. None-the-less I was intrigued and anxious to see how author Laurie Lewis could actually pull all this together.
This isn’t Lewis’s first book. She’s the author of a historical series called Freemen and Dreamers, a series of novels based around the time of the American Revolution. However, Awakening Avery is a complete departure from that genre.
Awakening Avery reminded me of an LDS version of the Shell Seekers by Rosemund Pilcher. It has that same sense of realism, with characters that are complex and a plot that is sweeping in its emotional honesty. It’s a book that entertains, inspires and makes one stop for just a moment and consider the fragility of life… before going back to being entertained.
Avery, the main character is a woman in her late forties. She’s a successful writer, the mother of two sons and one married daughter, and recently widowed by the death of her husband after a long battle with health issues resulting from years of unchecked diabetes. She is angry, depressed, lost and like a typical LDS woman, she’s doing her best to hide it from everyone, especially her children. But it isn’t working, and they feel that they are losing her as well.
The family owns a condo in Baltimore, Maryland, near Avery’s family on the east coast, and Avery decides to travel from her home in Utah, to the condo and sell it, thus erasing another painful memory of happier days. Upon arriving she meets Teddy and Rider, an x-rodeo couple who are now successfully running a real estate business.
Avery and Teddy become close friends and it is through them that she learns of Gabriel, a man on Anna Maria Island who is looking to trade his house for the summer with someone who lives near Washington DC.
Anna Maria Island was a favorite family vacation spot, and Avery imagines it might be just the place where she and her family can heal.
Gabriel, a widower of many years has messes of his own he’s trying to deal with. Two beautiful but headstrong daughters have become dependent on him, refusing to take responsibility for their own lives. He’s hoping that by forcing them out of the nest, so to speak, they will find their own wings.
When I read a book, I want to feel like I’m walking beside the characters, seeing what they see, smelling what they smell. On the other hand, I don’t want pages of unnecessary description to stop the flow of the plot. Lewis has done an excellent job of balancing the two. From the water taxi in Baltimore, to the overwhelmingly opulent Ca d’Zan mansion, once home to the famous Ringlings, and now a museum, I not only felt like I was experiencing these places first hand, but that I wanted to actually go there myself.
The story caught me up right from page one, and was difficult to put down. At 344 pages it wasn’t a straight through read, but it was one of those stories that stayed with me, urging me back to the characters and the plot every chance I could get.
This book has humor, inspiration, romance and heart break, but it does not have any lion tamers. It does have a great recipe for fruity pancakes with a surprise ingredient… but if you want to get the recipe… you’re going to have to read the book.