Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Summer Guests by Mary Alice Monroe

A storm is brewing and that means a host of evacuees making their way up the coast from Florida to safer areas. Grace Phillips offers her farm to a few close friends and their various animals, which is fortunate because they have the space and the means to put up a number of people, dogs, and, thankfully, horses. But throughout the week, the stress and tension of close quarters and worries over the storm play havoc on the farm and its residents. As the storm tears through its path, they all find that while they may be physically safe, the hurricane will tear through them emotionally. By the end, friends and lovers will find the closest of relationships stressed to the max. Whether they'll come out of it intact is the real question. 

Talk about a book I can empathize with. Growing up in southwest Louisiana, I was no stranger to hurricanes, storm preparations, and evacuations. My final years of college were the worst with storm after storm threatening the area and dissipating before hitting, causing all of the local businesses and the schools to wan in their response levels with each new storm.

So yeah, I can understand stress centered around leaving your home, wondering if your home will make it, worrying about animals, and even the friction it all causes among groups of people sheltered together.

Of course in The Summer Guests, the farm these folks have evacuated to is HUGE! There's the main house, the barn, and two "cottages," which are anything but the small abodes I imagined they would be. So there's plenty of space for these folks to all spread out and ignore one another. But they don't. In part because of Grace and their relationships with her.

While the various guests all vaguely know one another, some simply due to being part of the horse world, the one person they all know is Grace. And she'd like nothing more than for all her close friends to get along with one another. But tension and stress definitely don't bring out the best in people. You can imagine the strength of the emotional storm brewing is as strong by the time it figuratively hits as the hurricane they're all bracing for!

One thing I'm not familiar with is horses. I rode, more regularly than most, but it was limited to summer camps and trips to dude ranches. Dressage and jumping, maintenance, sales, etc are all foreign to me. But they are a central portion of The Summer Guests. This was an interesting aspect of the book and one that's threaded throughout, giving the reader a sense of familiarity from the start even if you know literally nothing about horses at all.

The Summer Guests is the kind of read you can sink into and the characters are the kind you can call friends by the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even more so now that I no longer live along the coast and have to worry about storms that are already earning names this calendar year!

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