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Life's a Beach

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With the spring weather all sweet and syrupy, I thought I'd find an easy read to while away the days when the pollen count keeps us indoors with a big box of tissue conveniently close to hand.

Atlanta author Patti Callahan Henry's Where the River Runs is the story of a middle-aged Buckhead woman who suddenly realizes that she's faking her way through life and rushes off to find her true unedited self at ... the beach!

Meridy McFadden grew up a hellion in South Carolina's Low Country, a wild and "inappropriate" girl who raced bikes with boys and crept out of the house at night. But after a tragedy that kills the love of her life, Meridy shuts down her heart and surrenders in her "war against the world of expectation and responsibility."

Twenty-five years later, Meridy is married to a workaholic lawyer and is mother to a son entering Vanderbilt University on a sports scholarship. But another couple's divorce sounds out a hollow in Meridy's perfect life.

Buckhead Meridy is tough to like, even when she's lashing out at her insipid acquaintances. Offended by a member of her prep-school board who knows nothing of the Low Country's Gullah culture beyond the TV show "Gullah, Gullah Island," Meridy fumes, "But I knew of the Gullah culture through our old housekeeper in Seaboro." And yes, her old housekeeper (the only African-American character in the book) ends up being Meridy's spiritual savior. Oi.

The Meridy who emerges in Seaboro is a lot more fun. She's a spunky woman who tells off old biddies, pounds back beers and skinny-dips in the ocean while she works out the stubborn clots of her heart.

Where the River Runs is a novel not so much about what you do as who you are. Which seems just about right for a day of doing nothing much.

Thomas.bell@creativeloafing.com

Patti Callahan Henry reads from Where the River Runs Thurs., May 5. 6 p.m. (reception), 7 p.m. (lecture). Margaret Mitchell House, 990 Peachtree St. $8. 770-578-3502. www.gwtw.org.

other worthwhile words this weekGood words and good wine when Connie May Fowler, Tommy Hays, Silas House, Barbara Robinette Moss, Jack Riggs, Amy Blackmarr and Ross Hall read at Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery in Dahlonega. Sat., April 30. Noon. 439 Vineyard Way. Free. 706-865-9463. www.threesistersvineyards.com.

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