Mel, Sara, Annie and Lola were roommates and best friends at Bedford University in Mount Clemmons, North Carolina. After graduation, however, their lives took very different paths and the women grew apart.
Now in their forties, Lola invites her former college buddies to her lavish North Carolina beach house for a week, hoping to renew their friendship. As the story unfolds, a past filled with secrets threatens to be revealed, and their lives may never be the same.
Cathy Holton knows women's fiction and she writes it well. Beach Trip opens in the Spring of 1982 with an event that will have a long lasting impact on Lola and her three friends. The reader quickly moves to the present day in 2005, where Mel, Annie and Sara are deciding if they will accept Lola's invitation, each coming up with reasons why they shouldn't. This is the format for most of the book and it works well, allowing the backstory to easily be woven into the current events.
Holton's strength is definitely character development. In Mel, Annie, Sara and Lola she has created four complex, multi-faceted women whose past is closely woven into their present. I found the backstory in this novel to be more engrossing than the present-day happenings, though admittedly, from the moment I picked this book up I couldn't put it down.
Through dialogue and well-drawn descriptions, the author paints an excellent picture of the setting and culture of the area. While I have never been as far south as Wilmington, after numerous trips to the Northern Outer Banks region, I felt very at home in Lola's world. I also enjoyed Mel's mention of how even people who knew her for a long time in New York couldn't get used to her slow, Southern way of speaking. It's something that also rings true from our various trips down to North Carolina.
There are moments when you might not care too much for these women, especially Mel, who is really tough to understand and appreciate. But in the end, I truly believe that most readers will see a little of themselves somewhere within this book's pages.
A cathartic journey that comes to a surprising and superbly written conclusion, Beach Trip by Cathy Holton should be on your summer reading list!