Review by Deb Czajkowski
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift of God. That's why it is called the present.” Quote by Bil Keane
When the second tower was hit on 9/11, claiming the life of financier Carter Murphy as one of its many victims, Ansley Murphy’s world is forever changed. Ansley’s beloved husband also left behind three daughters: Caroline (17), Sloane, (15), and Emerson (9). Thank goodness there is the million-dollar life insurance policy that will sustain them for a while in their gorgeous, posh Manhattan brownstone.
Except that Carter had borrowed against it and lost it all ─as well as virtually their entire life’s savings─ in the stock market. With very little money left, Ansley makes the difficult decision to move her family from their upscale life in cultural Manhattan to picturesque Peachtree Bluff, Georgia (population: 3,000), to the house her grandmother left to her. Here she can ─will!─ start again. She’ll start her own design business and raise their three girls in the quiet, small town where she’d summered herself as a girl.
Seventeen-year-old Caroline declares two things: 1) that living six months in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia, ─really, any time, anywhere away from Manhattan, where she (duh!) belongs─ is six months too many; and 2) once she leaves Peachtree in the summer for NYU, she’ll never return there again.
Fast forward seventeen years.
Ansley: Still living in Peachtree Bluff, enjoying her successful design business as well as the simple, quiet life of her quaint, small town. Did I say quiet life?
Caroline: Twelve years of marriage to James Beaumont (of the prestigious Manhattan Beaumont family), an eleven-year-old daughter, and six months pregnant with their second child, Caroline hears James tell her ‘I’m not in love with you anymore.’ What!? Oh, and he’s leaving her for a famous supermodel who’s doing a reality show─which will now include James! Whoa, right?
Caroline and her daughter, Vivi, now can’t get out of Manhattan ─away from James, away from the gossip and embarrassment─ fast enough, and, yep, straight to Peachtree Bluff. But Caroline isn’t the only daughter heading home to mama. Emerson, who’s an up-and-coming L.A. actress, has a plum role in a new film that’s being shot not far from Peachtree. And Sloane ─who doesn’t like to be left out, thank you very much─ decides that, with her military husband currently deployed, spending quality time with her family is just what she and her two young sons need. And then there’s Jack….
Look out quiet, chaos has arrived at Ansley’s house, Peachtree Bluff, Georgia. Hang on tight!
Talk about contrasts! Author Kristy Woodson Harvey’s novel, slightly south of simple, is chock full of them; as different as Peachtree Bluff is from Manhattan, as different as each sister’s life ─and lifestyle─ is from one another, as different as this morning’s emotions are from this afternoon’s.
Right from the beginning, Harvey masterfully and delightfully welcomes us to the Murphy party. No, more than that, she gives us a bedroom at Ansley’s house and makes us feel a part of the fun, the drama, the challenges, the joys, the heartaches. Ansley and Caroline take turns─literally switching back and forth, chapter by chapter─ filling us in on the all the down-and-dirty details of their lives.
We live in the present with the entire Murphy household, hearing perspectives on everyone, every action, from both Ansley’s and Caroline’s points of view. We also learn of their pasts ─yesterday’s history─ where secrets are revealed and struggles are confessed. And the mystery of tomorrow? How does it all end for Ansley and her grown ─but never too grown to need Mom from time to time─ daughters? Oh, and who’s Jack? Hmmm…Well, can you keep a secret?
I can, too! J Give yourself a gift: make reading slightly south of simple part of your present one day soon.
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About the author:
Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina, Lies and Other Acts of Love and the Peachtree Bluff Series, beginning with Slightly South of Simple.
She blogs with her mom daily on Design Chic, the inaugural member of Traditional Home’s design blogger hall of fame, about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodsonharvey.com.
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