Wendell Combs is as local as they come. Born and raised in the small town of Saybrook, Connecticut, his venture into the larger world was met with heartbreak. Now, middle-aged and a confirmed bachelor, he seeks solitude from his tour of duty as a soldier back in his hometown, working as head caretaker for wealthy Alan Lancaster’s forty-acre estate, White Pines, a place he has come to love for its beauty, peace, and quiet.
Alan’s eldest daughter, fifteen-year-old Julia, also loves White Pines, but for very different reasons. She and her little sister spend their days riding horses, swimming in the lake, and painting landscapes inspired by the property they adore. While her parents prepare to host their annual summer gala fundraiser, Julia’s eyes are set to the simpler joys of summer: she’s fallen in love with the boy-next-door and longs for their next encounter.
But as the last guests leave on that magical summer night, a tragedy no one could have predicted suddenly occurs, shaking the entire town to its core. Wendell and Julia now face an uncertain future. At the height of their grief, two very different women return to Saybrook: Ginny Feldman, Wendell’s first love, who cannot stay away any longer, and Candace Lancaster, Julia’s estranged aunt who wants nothing to do with the town or the family estate she escaped decades earlier. Now, the only familiar things Julia has to cling to are Wendell and White Pines, but it looks like she’s about to lose both… (publisher)
My take: When I first saw the cover of Message in the Sand I thought it looked like a light, summery, beachy read. Would I read it on the beach? Sure, but my goodness it was not light! What it is is an emotional family drama that I was completely invested in. And that’s my experience with all of Hannah McKinnon’s novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I loved the main characters – especially Wendell, Julia and Pippa. My heart went out to them as they navigated a strange and new normal. If you like a family story that pulls your heartstrings, give Message in the Sand a try.
About the author:
Hannah McKinnon is the author of The Lake Season, Mystic Summer, The Summer House, Sailing Lessons, and The View from Here. She graduated from Connecticut College and the University of South Australia. She lives in Connecticut with her family, a flock of chickens, and two rescue dogs.