An affecting Southern tale about second chances and banishing the ghosts of regret.
Ellie is devastated when her mother Lillian suddenly dies. Theirs was not a perfect relationship—Lillian was one of those moneyed Southern Belles devoted to perfection and protocol—but Ellie was a faithful daughter nonetheless. Cleaning out her mother’s closets, Ellie comes across Lillian’s secret journal, begun when she was a girl, with one single entry added every New Year’s Eve for the remainder of her life. Ellie is shocked to discover this paper stranger: the carefree girl, the dramatic teenager, the passionate young woman, in love with “Him.” The mystery man in question crushed Lillian, turning her into the exacting figure Ellie knew. Ellie fears this fate for herself. Nearly 50, trapped in a marriage to the right sort of man, living the right sort of social life in Atlanta, Ellie feels as if she’s dying. And then Hutch O’Brien reenters her life. A curator at the Historical Society, Hutch is finishing an exhibition on Atlanta’s Woman of the Year winners from the 1960s. Lillian was a winner and Hutch suspects it was because she was involved with the civil-rights movement. But Hutch is not some crumpled historian—he is Ellie’s college lover, her very own wrong-kind-of-man. She tells Hutch about the journal, and the two head to Lillian’s closest friend Birdie’s house on the Alabama coast for some answers. As Lillian’s secret life is uncovered, Ellie’s marriage to Rusty is revealed for what it is: a loveless endeavor begun for her mother’s approval and Ellie’s own sense of safety. Spending time with Hutch shows her there could have been another life—one of passion—just as her mother could have had a different life with “Him.” By novel’s end, long-held secrets are revealed, the Alabama coast enchants Ellie into a new life, and Hutch, well…
Romantic storytelling at its simple best.