Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Thanks to the graciousness of author Kristy Woodson Harvey, I received an advance reader’s copy of her debut novel, Dear Carolina, several weeks ago and recently had the chance to read it. I’m not sure that this is a selection I would have chosen for myself, but I’m definitely glad I gave it a try.
Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Paperback, 320 pages
Published by Berkley Books (an imprint of Penguin Group) on May 5, 2015
Source: Paperback ARC sent to me by the author
What it’s about (from Goodreads):
Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan—everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…
Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us—and that families aren’t born, they’re made…
One of my favorite passages:
I heard a man on the news saying that winning the Mega Millions lottery was the best feelin’ in the whole world, but that ain’t right. Having somebody love you so much they cain’t even leave you for vacation is the best feelin’. And I got all warm inside just knowin’ that you was gonna get to feel like that.
My thoughts on this one:
Since I’m not a mother, I often wonder how my experience of books differs from readers who have children; I don’t have a strong emotional connection to most books where the main subject is children or some topic around that subject. Dear Carolina was no exception in that regard; I did, however, find a connection with the main characters, Jodi and Khaki, who are the two narrators.
Jodi is uneducated, yet very bright and intelligent; the author writes Jodi in her “true” voice – grammatical errors and Southern slang included. I was raised in a community that included many individuals who spoke this way and, at first, I found it to be a little off-putting; however, as I continued reading I realized that this was merely my personal resistance to the culture I’d left behind and not a reflection on the novel or the author’s choice on the manner in which to write the character. Jodi is a disadvantaged, down-on-her-luck, young gal and she never allows that to get in her way; I really enjoyed that.
Khaki seems to have compromised a life of Manhattan swagger when she married her husband, Graham, and runs her successful interior design business from the country home they share; she makes frequent visits to NYC for business and continues to appreciate that lifestyle, while also enjoying the quite time in her new home.
Jodi and Khaki are, obviously, from very different backgrounds and the author does a great job of highlighting their socio-economic differences through the telling of this story. She does not leave a hint of judgment, yet she explores what it means for parents as they try to create the best outcomes for their children; even as a non-parent, I could appreciate the struggle that Jodi and Khaki each face as they try to make the best decisions for their respective families. Khaki shares her business acumen and street smarts to help Jodi create an opportunity for herself that is pretty magical; it was delightful to see Jodi discover a life that she’d only been able to imagine.
This was a quick read and I enjoyed it; I think it would be a nice book to take with you on a trip or for a summer vacation/beach selection. This might make a great Mother’s Day gift, as well! I think many fans of authors like Kristin Hannah and maybe even Jodi Picoult would enjoy this debut.
Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina. She blogs at Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodsonharvey.com. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a Master’s in English from East Carolina University. She is a regular contributor for The Salisbury Post, Domino magazine and Houzz. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three-year-old son.