Review of ‘Dear Carolina’
In her debut novel, Kristy Woodson Harvey tells the stories of two polar opposite Southern women, connected by one of the strongest bonds there is: motherhood.
Frances “Khaki” Mason and her husband’s 19-year old cousin, Jodi, both hail from North Carolina, but their worlds could not be further apart. Khaki, a once-widowed and now remarried mother of one, is a successful interior designer with a thriving home decor store, several design books and a job with one of New York’s finest interior design houses. Her parents own a sprawling plantation home, and she herself lives with her son and high school sweetheart, Graham, in a custom-built farmhouse. Jodi, a barely-legal former alcoholic, was homegrown in a trailer park and born to one hardworking, doting father and one angry, alcohol-fueled mother.
It appears that Khaki has hit the jackpot of the phrase “having it all,” save for one small snag. After months of trying, she still isn’t able to get pregnant with Graham. And when Jodi knocks on her front door and, after some nudging, reveals that she’s with child, Khaki’s first instinct is to ask, “Why her and not me?”
As Jodi embarks on a new adventure, she finds that her initial fears rang true. Can she really give her baby the life she deserves? It will be Khaki she turns to when she finally answers that painful question, but what she’ll ask next will forever change their lives.
Being a momma ain’t supposed to be about what’s easy.” – Jodi, page 134
Jodi and Khaki, as different as their lives may be, are human to the bone: richly complex individuals with solid beliefs and soft hearts. With a style of storytelling that will appeal to city girls and Southern belles alike, Dear Carolina offers a look into the lives of two intricately flawed women, and how their bond grows stronger when united by baby Carolina.
This story is not one chock-full of dramatic peaks and pitfalls; rather, there are several points that could have better reflected the heartstring-tugging plot without reliance on cliché. However, Woodson Harvey’s compelling ability to spin a story narrated by not one, but two distinct characters is a talent not easily mastered and will most definitely prove valuable in future novels. Each character, ranging from Khaki to Jodi to even Khaki’s best friends from Manhattan, are strongly detailed and have diverse personalities, beliefs and quirks, making the novel both delightful and thought-provoking in almost every way.
Despite its light-read feel, Dear Carolina subtly asks you to rethink the definition of family. Is a mother the woman who birthed you or the woman who raised you? And what becomes of that role when one woman brought a baby into the world and another saw that child through it? Are the lines blurred when both women work together in a way similar to co-parenting?
A beautiful depiction of two very different lives paralleled only through motherhood, Dear Carolina comes to a powerful conclusion: “You can never have too many people who love you.”