The Beach House
A Story about a Daughters, Mothers, Love, and Sea Turtles
At the beginning of the Beach house, the reader is introduced to Cara, a 40-year-old woman in Chicago who has lost her job and is invited to come home to her mother’s beach house for the Summer. Although Cara has high hopes for the visit, she is reluctant to go see her mother who she feels has forgotten about her all of her life. Throughout the book we learn that Cara cannot stand her mothers perceived weakness. Throughout her whole life she witnesses her mother giving in to her fathers verbal abuse. This book was written in 2002 and is set within a few years of this. “Lovie” as Cara’s mother was known as, was a mother during the 60’s and 70’s. In South Carolina during this time, a woman was taught to mind her husband. There was men’s work and women’s work. Lovie had to make sure she maintained the status quo. Cara was bitter because her mother stood by while her and her brother were verbally and sometimes physically abused by their father. At first in the book it seems as though her mother is weak. However, after Cara decides to come to the beach house for the Summer, her mother tells her that she has cancer and throughout the Summer they work out their differences. We find out that Lovie only stayed with her husband and endured his abuse because if she didn’t, he threatened to take custody of her children. She knew that this would not be the best option for them. Here we see a protective mother enduring abuse in order to keep her children as safe as possible. When Cara left her home at 18 to move to Chicago, her mother’s carefree attitude was not actually negligence. It was her mother accepting that Cara would be safer and happier this way without her father. In the end we have a picture of a protective and caring mother who appeared weak because of the social order she had to maintain during that area in the South.
Cara was also bitter about her mother’s involvement with Sea Turtles Hatchlings on the beach. Cara always thought that the turtles took priority in her mother’s life, however we find out that this was her mother’s only escape from the prison she lived in with her husband and the social expectations to be a perfect housewife. Her mother states that the turtles and the beach house were the only thing she could claim as her own. She was not controlled here and she was able to follow her passions instead of just being Southern wife. All of the weaknesses Cara saw in her mother were actually her mother being brave in some form.
The turtles themselves were also mother figures in this book. The turtles are described as very protective of their eggs. They would wait for the opportune time to come up on the beach and lay them, ensuring that they had a safe nest before she would return to the sea. There are many parallels to the eggs hatching and the healing of the characters in the book.
Another prominent mother in this book is Toy, an 18-year-old girl who was staying with Lovie during her pregnancy. She had no support at home and the baby’s father was abusive. She is portrayed as very naïve and weak throughout the whole book as she continues to go back to her abusive boyfriend. However, in the end she chooses her baby over him when he gives her an ultimatum. She is stronger from this decision and we see a devoted mother even at the young age of 18.
Lastly, Cara is portrayed as a mother in this book to both Toy and to her own mother as she continues to get sick. Cara does not see herself as a nurturing person but the affects of the beach house that Summer paint a different picture. After months of caring for both of these people, Cara who found love at the beach decided to stay in South Carolina and nurture all of the relationship around her. Although she has no children of her own up until this point, she chooses to continue being a motherly figure to Toy and her niece and nephew. After her mother’s death at the beach house, Cara could say that her mother in those last four months of her life taught her what was important in life. Cara learned from her mother how to slow down and be a motherly, caring figure herself. Her mother was someone different and the beach house and it changed Cara for the better as well.