Dreams of Falling
by Karen White
Nestled comfortably into the perfectly manicured grounds of the prestigious Carrowmore Estate is a legend of epic proportions. The country estate is home to a tree; a vessel especially made for wishing. The sacred oak is known for its prophetic and giving nature; it is a tree that has withstood the age of time, countless hurricanes, and surrounding expansion. Inside the gaping mouth of this famous tree, wishes are buried and dreams are fervently made with hushed whispers and bated breaths.
One stormy afternoon, three young girls write their innermost secrets and greatest hopes on ribbons. Margaret, Bitty, and CeeCee are best friends on a quest for adventure and glory, and are sure that the tree will deliver. Placing their carefully constructed ribbons inside the tree for safekeeping, they make a pact to always be there for one another. Little do they know just how taut the ties that bind them will stretch as the following weeks, months, and years play out.
A couple of lifetimes later, a girl who had once flown the veritable coop returns home. Larkin fled South Carolina almost a decade earlier, with hardly a word or goodbye to anyone. She’d ridden off like the bird she was named after, on the back of the wind coming in off the water, all the while desperate and eager to put everything that was her life in the quaint small town of Georgetown firmly behind her. The only thing that could have brought her back home is Ivy, her mother.
As far as healthy mother/daughter relationships go, Ivy and Larkin were the definition of failure. They were more friendly acquaintances than family, both women looking in on the other’s life with a quiet smile and a nod of the head and never anything deeper. Larkin spent the majority of her childhood doing her best to get her mama’s attention by acting out or behaving just like her, but all it got the child in the end was a wider gap forged between the two. Ivy never knew how to raise a daughter like Larkin – the fire inside the little girl always intimidated her, and Ivy’s mind never was quite right after the love of her life suddenly passed away, leaving a lifetime of promises melting away in front of her.
But it was all a situation that resolved itself in the form of CeeCee, a woman who was best friends with Ivy’s mother and one who’d vowed that Ivy (nor her offspring) would ever want for anything. CeeCee raised Ivy after her mother died and then raised Larkin when it was apparent Ivy couldn’t mentally or emotionally handle the burden. She’d muscled in with her quiet but exacting way and solved problems with lots of fried chicken and buttery mashed potatoes . . . and plenty of pecan pie.
Never having had children of her own, Ceecee took the Darlington heirs in as her own flesh and blood, doing her best to honor the promise she’d made with Margaret and Bitty all those years ago when they were freshly made adults; three girls straight out of high school and ready for a last summer spent on the beach. It was her duty to raise Ivy and Larkin. Especially considering the part she’d played in Margaret’s death. CeeCee has been busy burying those secrets for years, albeit out of love, and she has no plans to start unearthing it all now. But as the truths of Ivy’s disappearance begins creeping towards the light, CeeCee realizes she may not have any choice in the matter but to come clean.
South Carolina is a place that Larkin loves and hates in equal measure. It holds the skeletons in the closet of her childhood and teenage years. Endless hours spent with her best friends Mabry and Bennett, the days spent trying to eat enough pie to bury her feelings, and heartache in the form of the ultimate rejection from the most popular guy in school. The news of Ivy’s disappearance was about the only thing that could have gotten Larkin out of New York and back down south, but that still doesn’t mean she’s in any mood to face demons of days past. Unfortunately for Larkin, it seems like there are memories and familiar faces at every turn, each ready and willing to dredge up the events that led her to run away in the first place. She is beginning to feel like she can’t escape, and she wonders why she hasn’t been able to transform her insides as completely as she’s transformed her outsides in the years since she’s been away. As she lets the walls fall down and allows herself to feel those intense emotions from her teenage years, Larkin opens up a can of worms she can’t close back up again. Merging her present with Ivy’s past, Larkin digs down deep into the history of her family to try and solve the mysteries she’s facing in the present. Why did CeeCee raise her mother? Why did Ivy find it so difficult to be a mother, herself? And what happened all those years ago, when Carrowmore nearly burned to the ground in the middle of a hurricane?
Dreams of Falling is written by the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty novels, Karen White. No stranger to the penning of dramatic and romantic tomes sent within the stoic trees and overflowing bayous of the South, White has checked a lot of boxes with her newest novel:
Decades-old mystery – Check.
Sentimental friendship(s) – Check.
Budding romance – Check.
Good ole’ Southern roots – Check.
Lots of pecan pie and sweet tea – Check. Check. Check.
The feel of this book was as overpowering as the thick humidity that hits you every time you step out of doors anywhere beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. The love that CeeCee felt for the Darlington women (regardless of the generational gap) was that of a mother to a child. I was especially fond of the backstory involving her, Bitty, and Margaret, and of course the love of her life. The three women could not have been more different but the sense of innate loyalty that bonded them together like glue was remarkable.
Larkin was less interesting than CeeCee, but she had her merits. I felt for her in so many of the cringe-worthy moments that she relived once she came home and was confronted with all she’d left behind. Bennett was exceptional and attractive, but I think I preferred this novel to not be so focused on romance and was glad that it wasn’t. Things seemed to fall into place a little more organically that way. There were Southern nuances that I appreciated, as well.
All in all, this was a novel that I enjoyed and would read again. It has been categorized as a stand-alone novel but I read in a few other reviews that is is connected loosely to another White book. I’m going to have to do some due diligence here and find out which one(s) because I am a fan of the little Southern town cast as the setting here.
Giving Dreams of Falling 4 out of 5 stars, I recommend it to those who enjoy close-knit friendships, are fans of books like Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana, or who keep their stilettos firmly planted on Southern soil.