Review: Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp.
Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

Kristy Woodson Harvey has been called the “next major voice in Southern fiction” for good reason: her novels are steeped in the characters, dialogue, settings, and cultural charm that can only be found below the Mason/Dixon line. Slightly South of Simple is the latest example of the author’s tremendous skill in crafting contemporary fiction with Southern style.

The book is about what happens when several people descend on the sleepy coastal town of Peachtree Bluff, Georgia and shake up Ansley Murphy’s laid back life. Each of her three daughters visit for different reasons, but at the same time. Her first serious boyfriend commissions her interior design business as he restores his storm damaged boat. One of her sons-in-law travels from New York to ask his estranged wife for a second chance. As each character’s story unfolds, layers of life’s universal experiences are revealed: family, betrayal, forgiveness, second chances, hope, mothers, daughters, sisters, and surviving loss of life and love.

The narrators switch between Ansley and her eldest daughter, Caroline. They are very different people, but have more in common than they’d like to admit. Slightly South of Simple has humor, grief, surprises, and long buried secrets among the cast of characters. It is a heartwarming tale of finding rest and renewal near a southern shore, and I cannot wait to read what happens next in the series.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2015), Lies and Other Acts of Love (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2016) and the Peachtree Bluff Series, beginning with Slightly South of Simple (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, 2017). Dear Carolina was long-listed for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, has been optioned for film and has appeared on numerous “must-read” lists. Lies and Other Acts of Love was a Romantic Times top pick, a Southern Booksellers Okra Pick and is a finalist for the Southern Book Prize.

She blogs with her mom daily on Design Chic, the inaugural member of Traditional Home’s design blogger hall of fame, about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodsonharvey.com.

Harvey is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude 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, with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Traditional Home, Domino, Houzz and Our State. She has been seen in Readers’ Digest, Women’s Health, The Washington Post, Dr. Oz The Good Life, The Huffington Post, USA Today’s Happy Every After and North Carolina Bookwatch, among others. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.

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