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The Beach Trees - Karen White I enjoyed this book. It started out a little slow for me in the beginning and I found it difficult to keep track of the different characters due to the two different life stories being told but after the first few chapters I was fine. "The Beach Trees" is a story that takes place along the Katrina ravaged gulf coast of Biloxi, MS and New Orleans, LA, focusing on the lives of two women Julie Holt and the aging Aimee Guidry. Neither have met before but they are brought together by the death of Monica Guidry, Julie's friend and Aimee's estranged granddaughter. Monica left Julie with the responsibility of raising her 5yr old son Beau, (whom the family had no knowledge of) and left her a beach house along the coast in Biloxi, MS in which to raise him in, as well as an old family heirloom that holds clues that may provide some answers not just for Aimee but for Julie as well. Both women have suffered tragic loss in their lives and may discover that they are more connected than they realize. (The story is told from the narrative of both Julie and Aimee and the chapters go back and forth between the two. Sometimes when books are written this way, it can get confusing but author White, does a nice job and the women's stories flow evenly between chapters.)While Julie is on her journey to fulfill Monica's wishes, she discovers that the beach house was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina and there is nothing left but an empty lot. She also discovers that Monica's brother, Trey Guidry, is part owner of the property. They don't exactly hit it off but are forced to work together for the sake of Beau and Aimee. Aimee is the matriarch of the Guidry family and is kind and loving to everyone she meets regardless of race or social status. She was a reluctant witness to her mother's death when she was a toddler and still has nightmares into old age. She spent her summers in New Orleans, living with her grandmother who was both good friends and neighbors with the Guidry family. Aimee grew up with both Gary and his older brother Wes Guidry (before marrying one of them) and shared lots of memories with their family at yearly Mardi Gras balls and their beach house in Biloxi until the night that their mother, Caroline disappeared. She raised Trey and Monica, her grandchildren, when their parents weren't able too and was devastated when Monica left without a word, feeling her loss every day.Julie spent the first twelve years of her life in MA until the year her younger sister Chelsea went missing. Julie has always felt responsible for her disappearance because she was the one who was supposed to be watching her. She has continued to search for her every day, well into her adult years, never giving up hope. In doing so, she has giving up having a life of her own outside of a career and while she is open and easily giving to those around her (she takes in Monica and Beau during her last year of life) she isn't very good at "living" life. The longer she stays in Biloxi though, the more she begins to feel like maybe the thing she's been searching for has been right in front of her all along and maybe, the people she's met, Aimee, Trey and Beau are the ones to help her find it.Trey has spent the past ten years searching for his younger sister Monica. There isn't a day that goes by that he hasn't tried to find her or wonder why she left, somehow feeling like he's to blame. Having lost so much in his life already, his grandmother, Aimee is all that he has left and he wants to do all he can to protect her so when this stranger Julie Holt shows up with a "stolen" family heirloom and his nephew who is an almost mirror image of his sister, the lawyer in him comes out in full force. He struggles to understand why his sister would choose to stay away all these years, not contacting him, especially after Beau was born and why, her supposed "best friend", knowing so much about him and his family, wouldn't have encouraged her to call or come home. As the pieces of the mystery of his family begin to come together, he realizes that maybe he and Julie aren't so different after all.There is a great deal of detail about the gulf coast, what it was like before and during Katrina and what the area looks like now. Even though this is a story of fiction, it still brought back the memories of the live news coverage of Katrina for me and the sorrow I felt for the people of the gulf coast and New Orleans. Like the people in real life, the people in this story chose to be defiant and to rebuild, to "look up". One of the quotes that I loved from this book that sums up the spirit of the people of the Katrina ravaged areas, the ones who chose to come "home" and start over is: "Look up," I told Johnny, and he did, his mouth. "Remember that all right? When everything you're about to see is too much, look up and see that the sky is clear and know that everything is going to be all right." ~ Aimee Guidry (after Hurricane Camille 1969)Pretty good advice for just about any hardship we face...This book has a little bit of everything in it, love, romance, heartbreak, forgiveness, murder, unsolved mysteries, you name it, it's got it. Well, unless you're looking for sparkly vampires... ;)