The Richest Season
by Maryanne McFadden
(Hyperion, $13.99) ISBN 978-1-4013-0991-6
****
Joanna Harrison is a North Jersey corporate wife who has been supportive of her husband's career, raised two children and now finds herself at a cul-de-sac in her life, living in a McMansion with nothing really to live for.

Joanna gets wind that there is a promotion in store for Paul, and most likely another move. Feeling trapped, Joanna gets in her car and drives south, ending up on Pawley's Island, a place she visited with her family as a child and remembers as a safe place. Not sure what to do, Joanna takes a waitressing job and becomes a live-in companion for elderly Grace, another escapee from life who is has come to Pawley's Island to hide her pancreatic cancer from her children and to die on her own terms.

Joanna and Grace are a bit like oil and water, but each is determined to make their choices in life work. Joanna gets involved with island native, boat captain Hank and monitoring loggerhead turtle nests, still not sure where she fits in, even as she tries to make a new life. A merger up north sends Paul running after his wife when he loses his job; upon realizing she has no intentions to return to her former home and life anytime soon, Paul returns to New Jersey where he too undergoes a transformation of life and re-examines how far he has come and where he wants to go.

The Richest Season is a reflective love story, but not just in the typical man-woman love story sense. It is a love story between mother and children, a longing for what has been lost and a longing for what will never be. Originally self-published, there is a soothing rhythm to the writing, much like the ocean surrounding Pawley's Island.

There is much emotion in the plot, sympathy toward Grace battling her illness, anger at her willingness to shut out her children from this part of her life, and finally understanding as to why she had to do it. Joanna and Grace learn from each other as each chooses initially to deal with their unhappiness and sadness with life in similar way, running away, but each realizing that Joanna can turn back, but Grace will never be able to.

As Joanna repairs her relationship with herself, with Paul and with her children, she is able to look at her life more clearly, see where she has been, and this time, decide for herself where she would like to be.

--Jennifer Monahan Winberry


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