The lives of three women, separated by time and connected by loss, are woven together in unexpected ways in Sands’ debut novel.
The seductive Southern charms of Savannah, Ga., provide the backdrop for Sands’ tapestry of a novel that interweaves the lives of three women from starkly different eras. In August 2011, photographer and grieving widow Maggie Morris arrives in Savannah after her husband’s sudden death in a boating accident. While investigating his mysterious drowning, Maggie becomes entangled in the lives of several local residents. One of these is a handsome, young lighthouse restorer who recounts the story of the famous Waving Girl—Savannah’s own maritime legend who greeted ships for over 40 years from the island home she shared with her brother. In alternating chapters, the novel flashes back to the 1890s, when a feisty newspaper reporter named Bobbie Denton, who also happens to be Maggie’s great-grandmother, meets the actual Waving Girl, née Florence Martus, while on assignment in Savannah. Flora’s story, told from an intimate point of view, centers on one day in 1940 when the 72-year-old woman lays to rest her dead brother, George, while recalling her life’s dark secrets. If this all sounds a bit complicated, it is. Sands writes with graceful lyricism about the longings and regrets that bind these disparate women, and the images of lonely lighthouses and windswept shores are often stunning. As a whole, however, the novel suffers from narrative interruptions, with the chapters alternating rapidly and often abruptly, and many threads becoming tangled as a result. On their own, each woman’s story is rich and engrossing. In an ambitious novel spanning more than a century, Sands creates tension in small moments and haunting questions—many of which are not answered until the final pages. Despite the awkward narrative structure, there is plenty of Southern charm to keep readers hooked until the end.
Strong female characters and an evocative setting make this an enjoyable read.