The Beach Trees by Karen White

Karen White always crafts novels that are full of engaging characters and intricate story lines, and The Beach Trees is no exception.  Shifting from the present to the past and between two first person accounts, the novel tells the tale of rebirth and rebuilding.  Set in the South — New Orleans and Biloxi — Julie Holt and Aimee Guidry’s stories are told in tandem and are more entwined than readers first think as a mystery is solved.

From the disappearance of Monica, Aimee’s granddaughter, to the disappearance of Caroline Guidry many years before, White crafts a unique story of family, love, and forgiveness.  Both stories are riveting and filled with mystery, which readers will have to sweep aside the sand to uncover.

“When we got closer to the memorial I could see a curved cement wall with a mosaic wave in the center of it rolling from one end to the other.  At the far end sat a taller wall of black granite, columns of names marching in block letters under the word KATRINA and the date August 29, 2005.  A glass case filled with small objects protruded from the marble wall, its base filled with empty oyster shells.

‘What is this,’ I asked, leaning forward to study the sun-bleached artifacts:  a broken china plate, a ceramic angel, a trophy, a police badge, an American flag folded neatly as if unaware of its position over a pile of rubble.

‘That’s debris found after the hurricane.  . . . ‘” (page 150-1)

New Orleans was plunged into the depths of the ocean by Katrina’s storm surge, and like the city these two families — the Holts and the Guidrys — are unmoored, drifting toward one another in the search for more than just shelter, but for a home and connections.  Aimee’s story unfolds piece-by-piece as she tells it to Julie, who decides to stay in the city and Biloxi to fulfill the dying wish of her friend.  In addition to the haunting images of Katrina’s devastation, White incorporates the more recent toxicity brought on by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which coated numerous miles of coast and created yet another disheartening chapter in the city’s history.  However, like its people, the city continues to rise from the ashes much stronger than before.

The Beach Trees brings to life not only the main characters in the novel, but the southern setting, ensuring that its scars and healing are intertwined with that of White’s characters.  She has created a story of rebirth and perseverance.  Through alternating points of view, White draws connections between Aimee and Julie using emotion and setting in a way that too few authors can accomplish.  With deft hand, she has created an emotionally charged narrative that takes on a life of its own.

About the Author:

Known for award-winning novels such as Learning to Breathe, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance 2009 Book of the Year Award finalist The House on Tradd Street, the highly praised The Memory of Water, the four-week SIBA bestseller The Lost Hours, Pieces of the Heart, and her IndieBound national bestseller The Color of Light, Karen has shared her appreciation of the coastal Low country with readers in four of her last six novels.

Italian and French by ancestry, a southerner and a storyteller by birth, Karen has made her home in many different places.  Visit the author at her website, and become a fan on Facebook.

Also check out my reviews of The House on Tradd Street, The Girl on Legare Street, and On Folly Beach.

Check out the other stops on the TLC Book Tour by clicking the image.


  1. This one sounds great Serena. But more than that, I’m impressed that you have time to read and review, because I’m sure that precious baby is keeping you quite busy. 🙂

    Thanks for taking the time to be on the tour!

  2. I really enjoyed On Folly Beach and I’m excited to read The Beach Trees. It sounds like another wonderful story in the southern tradition with engaging characters and mystery to uncover! I also love the setting…it’s great that Karen White is reminding us of the tragedt New Orleans and surrounding areas went through and its recovery is ongoing.
    Thank you for a terrific review!

    • Amy, I really enjoyed how the setting played out in the novel and that it was more than just a backdrop to the rest of the story.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your review of this one. White is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite authors. I have a copy of this and will be reading it soon!!

  4. I really loved this book, thought it was the best of her novels that I’ve read so far. Glad to see you enjoyed it, too.

  5. I see her books all over but I’ve never read any of them. I think in my head, I’ve classified her books as “women’s fiction.” Do you find that to be the case, or are they a bit meatier?

    • I would classify the tradd street series as cozy mystery/women’s fiction, but On Folly Beach and Beach Trees are “meatier” than traditional women’s fiction! I really love her ability to craft intricate plots and deep characters. I think you’d like the books. Give one a try.

  6. I’m so glad to see this is good! I’ll be buying a copy today at a lunch event for Karen.

    • Have a great time at the lunch event. I would love to meet Karen in person one day, but I look forward to your account…I’m assuming you’ll be posting about it?!

  7. This book is definitely on my TBR!

  8. I have enjoyed the two Karen White novels I have read, both Tradd Street books. I need to read some of her standalone books now.