Oklahoma girl needing a break from New York’s hectic pace takes a vacation at an Alabama resort…just as Hurricane Ivan shows up.
Caroline Berry came to NYU from Tulsa with dreams of being a writer. Now 27 years old, she doesn’t exactly write, but cadges a sort of literary living, holding part-time jobs assisting a famous restaurant critic and a literary agent. At the start of the novel, Caroline has had it with Manhattan and her career, so she’s taking a three-week sabbatical at the Grand Hotel, a classy old resort beloved by her family in Point Clear, Ala., on Mobile Bay. But Hurricane Ivan gets in the way of her R&R, bearing down on Point Clear with a powerful wrath. Since Paddock (A Secret World, 2004) needs something of interest to happen at this point—it’s eluded her so far—she has Caroline hide out in the hotel when the evacuation orders come. In the storm’s immediate aftermath, Caroline comes across an intriguing young man on the beach. She and Walker have a brief chat before he dives into the bay’s choppy waters. When Caroline later discovers that Walker has gone missing, the mystery of his possibly suicidal act starts to obsess her, giving a charge and purpose to her writing. Paddock’s off-handed prose (“The place was not crowded but not empty either”) makes one long for anything to occur, but not even a hurricane can enliven this tale.