Tears of Sand

by Sandra Bass Joines

Synopsis

After a difficult childhood spent estranged from her father, Plata assumes care of her mother. Family friend and guardian, Bones, helps the two to escape from Plata’s father’s orbit and moves them first to Italy where Plata spends her teenage years taking care of her alcoholic mother. Finally arriving in Grayton Beach, Florida, where Plata is finally able to have a mature relationship with her mother. From the deaths of her mother, husband and infant son, Plata’s life turns 180 degrees. She learns that her mother had kept secrets from her, secrets that will endanger her and everyone around her.

Theme of the Book

Tears of Sand is a book about love in all its forms. There is love between parent and child, between man and woman, between friends. Hope is searching to replace the love she had with Plata’s father, Sean Paul. Plata finally finds love with Jeremy and then tragically loses him. Bones and Dee have a love of one another and of Plata, a love based on a shared past and a dangerous present.

What I liked about the story

Tears of Sand can easily be divided into two parts. In the first part of the book, the story moves with the slowness of a Florida summer day. Descriptions of the Florida coast are beautifully done. The atmosphere of small-town, non-touristy Florida fills the pages of the book with a sense of nostalgia and calm. There are some wonderful characters: the old men telling stories at the Store; Hope, eccentric and alcoholic as she is, is a complex and fascinating character; Nonna and Nonno are caring and wise. Plata, the daughter who doesn’t seem to belong, evokes sympathy.

The love story between Plata and Jeremy is wonderfully told. The tension between them builds the way a storm builds over the Gulf. The reader will cheer for them and will cry for them when Jeremy is killed by a bolt of lightning.

The structure of this first part of the novel is complex with the action switching back and forth in time from the birth of Plata’s child to her teenage years and back again to the time after the deaths of her mother, husband and baby. This allows the author to give readers the background of the main characters in a natural way.

What I didn’t like about the story

Lately, I have been binge-watching a British crime drama, “Midsomer Murders”. Midsomer is a rural area plagued by secrets, corruption, and many contrived murders. Reading the second half of Tears of Sand, I felt as though I had landed in the middle of a “Midsomer Murders” episode. From a tragic yet believable story of love unrequited, thwarted or fulfilled, we are suddenly in the midst of secrets, crime, murder, and conspiracy. It was very much like reading two separate books. There had been hints in the first half of the book: the mysterious ‘number’ called to handle insolvable problems; the unexplained past of Bones, Dee, and Plata’s grandfather; the shady real estate and drug deals of Sean Paul’s father. But the author seems to have crammed every possible crime, conspiracy or secret she could think of into the second half of the book. One or two would have been plenty.

Dialogue in general is often stilted with word usage and sentence structure not common informal spoken language. For example, criminal past, she says, “But killing Papa did not keep from happening what affected the South Americans most.” The sentence structure is perfect, but not in keeping with the English that would be used between mother and daughter in an informal setting. In the same dialogue, expressions such as let sleeping dogs lie, and wanted a piece of the action are used. The formal structures and the informal use of idioms just don’t fit together.

Final say

Readers who want a love story will greatly appreciate the first part of Tears of Sand. They will laugh, cry, and be moved by the existing love between Plata and her mother and between Plata and Jeremy.

Readers who want a thriller may be happier with the second part of the book in which Plata uncovers secrets, conspiracies, and murder.

I found the book didn’t know whether it wanted to be a love story or a thriller and, in the end, didn’t succeed well in being either.

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