Title: Dreams of Falling by Karen White
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (50s), Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
New York Times bestselling author Karen White crafts evocative relationships in this contemporary women’s fiction novel, set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, about lifelong friends who share a devastating secret.
On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping–including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.
But life can waylay the best of intentions….
Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.
Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years–whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal–that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.
Weaving back and forth in time, Dreams of Falling by Karen White is a novel that is filled with drama, family secrets, enduring friendships and puzzling mysteries.
In 1951, best friends Margaret Darlington, Sessalee “Ceecee” Purnell and Martha “Bitty” William’s two week vacation alters their lives forever. Ceecee is smitten with Boyd Madsen who is on the verge of launching his career as a doctor. Margaret is immediately charmed by Boyd’s much young brother, Reggie, who has big plans for his future, but also wants to serve his country during the Korean war. Bitty is hoping to meet the man of her dreams, but this forward thinking feminist who is ahead of her time finds her prospects severely lacking. Upon their return to Georgetown, Ceecee discovers the bonds of friendship can be pushed to the limit and still survive.
In 2010, Larkin Lanier must face her past when her mother Ivy goes missing. Planning to return to New York as soon as Ivy is found, her plans go awry when Ivy is rescued but remains in a coma from her accident. Larkin tries to avoid her childhood friends, Mabry who is now married with a young son and her twin brother Bennett who has unexpected business with Larkin and her father. She is also delighted when her high school crush Jackson Porter finally wants to date her. Larkin is also shocked to discover information about her grandmother and the home that has been in their family for generations. Will Larkin unravel the mystery surrounding her grandmother Margaret’s death? What other hidden truths will be unearthed as everyone anxiously awaits Ivy recovery?
With a plethora of characters, it is initially a bit confusing trying to keep everyone straight and understand their roles in the unfolding storylines. Margaret is spoiled, self-centered and gives little thought to the consequences of her actions. A preacher’s daughter, Ceecee is straitlaced and always takes convincing when it comes to Margaret’s schemes. She is also selfless and loyal to a fault. Bitty lives life on her own terms and she has an uncanny ability to see her friends’ flaws as well as their strengths. Larkin runs away and avoids her problems and despite extensive counseling and a better understanding of herself, she is quick to fall into old patterns when she returns to Georgetown. Mabry is a loyal friend who is outspoken and willing to let bygones be bygones. Bennett is one of the good guys, utterly charming and laidback but will he let the person who holds his heart get away again? Jackson is a smarmy womanizer but Larkin views him through the lens of her teenage crush so she is thrilled to be noticed by him. Readers will most likely find this part of the storyline incredibly frustrating especially considering the past events that precipitated Larkin’s longstanding estrangement with Mabry and Bennett.
The dual storylines are fascinating although the story arc taking place in 1951 is more compelling. Some of the events culminate with somewhat predictable outcomes but there are quite a few unexpected revelations. In the past, there is quite a bit of intrigue surrounding the fire that destroyed the Darlington home. In the present, everyone is desperate to figure out why Ivy went to the dilapidated estate the day she disappeared. Will Ivy awaken from her coma and satisfy everyone’s curiosity? Or will the many secrets coming to light provide the answers to everyone’s questions?
Dreams of Falling is an intriguing novel of redemption for many of the characters. The pacing of the story is a little slow but it is easy to become invested in the final outcome of both story arcs. Karen White brings the various settings and time periods vibrantly to life through her expressive descriptions. The novel comes to bittersweet but heartwarming conclusion that is guaranteed to delight readers.