The Sand Castle

Sometimes, it seems to me, Rita Mae Brown is simply out to taunt me.  It was if she had somehow heard (or perhaps read) my wish that she write again about the old Runnymeade gang, and give us a break from all those mysteries, which Brown has been cranking out exclusively of late.  So I was initially thrilled when I spotted Ms. Brown’s name in the New Fiction stacks.  But I was struck immediately at what a very small book it is, a mere 102  four by five inch pages.  A longish short story or a very brief novella,  the entire action takes place in a single August day in 1952.  Julia (Juts) and her sister Louise  (Wheezie) Hunesnemeir, the former‘s daughter, Nicole (Nickel) and the latter’s orpahaned grandson, Leroy,  are the only characters.

The Sand Castle finds our old friends heading out to the beach to build a sand castle. The first two thirds of the book move along quite pleasantly as the sisters reminisce about a childhood outing to the beach with their late Aunt Doney and largely working together with the two children to build a huge and amazing sand castle.    As their day at the beach nears its end a dramatic plot twist (or perhaps I should say THE dramatic plot twist as it is the only one) occurs that allows Brown to paint with just a few of the darker emotional shades and the Hussenmeir’s day at the beach and this all to short book both come to an end.   I easily read it at one sitting and found myself craving more.  

I am torn between elation at having this new glimpse into the lives of these characters whom I have followed through three previous full length novels and intense frustration that Ms. Brown seemed to have only a very few more words to say in these characters’ voices or perhaps just couldn’t be bothered to write a full length novel when the mysteries continue to pay the bills and the back list continues to sell.    The Sand Castle      Recommended.