Old South sensibilities, sparkling Charleston, and a group of aging socialites—all merge with an unshakable love for the land.
At 35, Anny Butler is semi-committed to singlehood, happy with her job helping disadvantaged children (she’s had plenty of experience, having raised her siblings while her mother drank away the days). That is, until she meets Dr. Lewis Aiken. Though both are Charleston natives, they may as well have come from separate worlds: Lewis had a boyhood of beach houses, a youth of cotillions, marriage to a beautiful, fussy wife, and weekends at the yachting club. Now divorced, popular Lewis sweeps Anny off her feet, and soon the new Mrs. Aiken meets the Scrubs. Lewis, Henry, Camilla, and Lila have been friends since their blue-blooded childhood; now nearing 50, they share (spouses come along) the beach house that they’ve been visiting all their lives. The Scrubs (they all have some connection to medicine) welcome Anny, and the years pass in an idyllic camaraderie (particularly poignant are Anny’s reveries about the Carolina Low Country). Wealthy and pleased with themselves, the eight flit from the shared beach house to their city mansions and their old plantation homes, while occasionally doing some good charitable work. This tour of the lifestyles of the rich and unfamous holds a certain prurient interest, and, thankfully, Siddons’s talent makes down-to-earth Anny’s narrative likable enough despite strangely unsympathetic people (they’re snobs, with antiquated ideas about race). As the years progress, tragedy threatens the unity of the group as they begin succumbing to both natural and unnatural deaths. But the indomitable (if not very nice) Camilla holds them together until the end, when the tale switches to a burning southern gothic replete with insanity, a faked illness, secret diaries, unrequited passion, and murder by fire.
The inconsistency in tone at the close is disappointing, though fans will welcome yet one more exploration of American southern life á la Siddons (<\I>Nora, Nora, 2000, etc.).