Sunday, July 4, 2010

Review: The Outer Banks House by Diann Ducharme

From the Back Cover:

As the wounds of the Civil War are just beginning to heal, one fateful summer would forever alter the course of a young girl’s life.

In 1868, on the barren shores of post-war Outer Banks North Carolina, the once wealthy Sinclair family moves for the summer to one of the first cottages on the ocean side of the resort village of Nags Head. Seventeen-year-old Abigail is beautiful, book-smart, but sheltered by her plantation life and hemmed-in by her emotionally distant family. To make good use of time, she is encouraged by her family to teach her father’s fishing guide, the good-natured but penniless Benjamin Whimble, how to read and write. And in a twist of fate unforeseen by anyone around them, there on the porch of the cottage, the two come to love each other deeply, and to understand each other in a way that no one else does.

But when, against everything he claims to represent, Ben becomes entangled in Abby's father's Ku Klux Klan work, the terrible tragedy and surprising revelations that one hot Outer Banks night brings forth threaten to tear them apart forever.

My Thoughts:

The Outer Banks House is both a coming-of-age and a love story set in the radically shifting world of North Carolina, three years after the Civil War. Seventeen-year-old Abby Sinclair comes to the shore with her family, to the odd little cottage her father has built, seeking respite from the deterioration of a once prosperous plantation and longing to enjoy a carefree summer before accepting an offer of marriage.

Our first full day in Nags Head unfolded as thick and warm as honey from the hive. There wasn't a thing to do except eat, sleep, and daydream, and I imagined the days following like a stack of goosedown pillows, white and fluffy.

But the Outer Banks have more in store for Abby: racial tensions, class divisions, disillusionment in her parents, and Ben, a dirt poor, good-natured local boy who opens her eyes to a world she didn't know existed, a world that makes Abby question who she is and whether she has the courage to stand up for what she believes in, to go after what she really wants out of life.

Abby's father hires Ben as a hunting and fishing guide, and Abby is surprised and annoyed when Ben requests to be taught how to read and write as payment for his services. Abby's reluctance to teach Ben doesn't last long, and the narrative moves back and forth between Abby and Ben as the events of the summer unfold. Normally I don't care for multiple first-person points-of-view, but in this case it works, and it works well, because Abby and Ben have such individual voices and are products of such different backgrounds that walking in both of their shoes really enriches the story and adds a fullness to understanding the uncertainty of living in the Reconstuction South.

The island itself is as much a part of the story as Abby and Ben; the rugged, simple beauty of its windswept dunes and inlets and forests provides the perfect setting for the bittersweet struggle of the hopes and dreams of first love amidst the harsh realities of a way of life on the brink of extinction.

This book was a pleasant surprise. I picked it up after it arrived to thumb through the first few pages, intending to then add it to Mt. TBR, but I started reading and didn't want to stop. I will say that after all of the angst and tension, the ending came around a little too conveniently and neatly, but I'll take my happy endings any way I can get them, and the easy, lilting style, evocative imagery and memorable characters more than make up for any plot shortcomings. One for my keeper shelf and highly recommended. Would make a great beach read, or a great escape if you wish you were at the beach.

My Rating:  4.5 Stars out of 5

**Please note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.


  1. Thanks for this review. I received an ARC unexpectedly the other day and am looking forward to reading it - it sounds like a perfect book for the summer months.

  2. II have ths one on hold at the library.


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