Last Light Over Carolina
By Mary Alice Monroe
Pocket Books • 369 pages
Based solely on Last Light Over Carolina, strangers to Mary Alice Monroe would hardly know she has not spent her entire life on the inlets and marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry. In her latest work, The New York Times best-selling author captures a facet of coastal living through perfectly portrayed characters.
Monroe proves that character development is indeed her forte, along with her penchant for historic accuracy and attention to detail. Through protagonists Bud and Carolina Morrison, Monroe weaves a tale of life in a family dependent on the shrimping industry in a small South Carolina town while concurrently depicting the decline of the once thriving business.
Born into a family of shrimpers, Bud is a native of McClellanville. Inheriting his passion for the sea and way of life from his family, Bud has always known his existence would be one of a shrimp boat captain. Carolina, seemingly from the other spectrum of life in the Southern state, hails from a wealthy family that calls a country club in the Upstate home. The two fall into a deeply passionate love affair that is immediately disapproved by Carolina’s parents, who were unabashed in informing their future son-on-law that he could never provide an adequate lifestyle for their only daughter by harvesting shrimp.
Defying the odds against them, Carolina and Bud live happily for years on the Miss Ann, working side by side as captain and striker. Yet, when Carolina is forced to stay on land while expecting their first child, the dynamic of their marriage is radically altered. The decline of the Morrisons’ relationship seems to parallel the increased hardships of the shrimping industry. Bud feels forced to spend more time on the water in order to stay afloat in a rising sea of debt caused by high diesel prices and an influx of foreign products on the market. And yet, the lack of proximity leaves him estranged from the loved ones he is working so diligently to provide for.
The saga of the couple’s marriage unfolds during the course of one tragic day on the Atlantic seaboard. The two simultaneously recant the fond, and painful, memories of their lives together, in a harrowing journey that ultimately leads them to discover the things they treasure most.
Monroe’s ability to so thoroughly portray the lives of shrimpers allows the reader to become fully immersed in the story. The dynamic characters are so easily relatable, readers may feel they have known the Morrisons as friends and neighbors, and that they, too, are a part of the shrimping community. Monroe has created an easy, yet exciting read that allows her fans to feel as if they have grown up on the beautiful waters of South Carolina, even if they reside hundreds of miles away.