The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate opens with Whitney on the brink of financial ruin. She is fighting a legal battle to open her second restaurant in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and if she can’t financially hold on, her cousin and all her employees will be out of work.
On top of all this stress, she receives a phone call that her estranged step-father fell, went to the hospital for a short stay, was discharged and was now missing. He is firmly planted in the upstairs apartment of the rundown, turn-of-the century hotel that Whitney inherited when her mother passed away. She struggles with leaving her restaurant and going to the Outer Banks to try to find her step-father but also wonders if she can persuade him to move so she can sell the hotel and solve her financial problems.
Whitney does go to the Outer Banks and while searching through her grandmother’s remaining belongings, discovers a disclosure of unknown family history that becomes an intriguing and mysterious puzzle that shakes her to the very center of her being.
The story intertwines two love stories, one historical and one in the present, as well as giving history of the Outer Banks, the Federal Writers Project of the FDR Administration, the Melungeons and the tale of the lost colony–all in one mysterious puzzle. While Whitney’s resolve and curiosity consumes her, it also grips the reader and keeps them enthralled in the story.
Who are the Melungeons? As I was reading this book, I wondered if the Melungeons were a figment of the author’s imagination and I found myself finally researching online for this group of people. There really were people that lived in the Appalachian Mountains by this name and interestingly, they are still being researched today. (http://whatisamelungeon.webs.com/)
The conflict of the story is whether Whitney will succumb to her severe financial problems or do what she truly feels is the right and just thing to do. The journey she has undertaken will strengthen her faith and help her to transcend her distrust in relationships if she can learn to let go of her beliefs of what her family history is and embrace what she discovers.
This lyrical fiction was a page turner for me and I wanted to read all night once started, but, alas, if I had I would never have been able to go to work the next day so I needed to pry my eyes off the page each night and put the book away until the next evening when the cycle would start all over again. I highly recommend this soul-searching story and give it 5 arm chairs.