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Caroline Venable has everything her Southern heritage promised: money, prestige, a rich husband, and a predictable routine of country-club luncheons and cocktail parties. Caroline is the chatelaine of a magnificent home, hostess to her husband's wealthy friends and prospective clients, and the official "one woman welcome wagon" for the young, eager talent that her husband, Clay, imports to their corner of South Carolina to work for the family company, a vastly-successful land-development conglomerate, Peacock Island Plantation. But ever since her ten-year-old daughter, Kylie, drowned in the nearby ocean, Caro hasn't been able to fully cope with her hostess role, and she hasn't been able to stop drinking. Instead, she has been taking refuge on "the island," the wild and undeveloped part of Peacock Island, in the house she grew up in.
As Clay's booming business takes him away from home more frequently, Caro finds herself alone in her grandfather's old lodge, immersed in the spectacular beauty of the unspoiled flora and fauna. Roaming the island are a band of wild ponies whose freedom and spirit captivated both Caroline and, during her lifetime, the young Kylie. Across the island is Dayclear, a community of Gullahs, direct descendants of the West African slaves, who still retain much of their ancient culture and way of life. But that way of life is about to be shattered. The Gullahs learn from a visiting botanist, Luis Cassells, that they do not own the land on which they live.
When Caroline learns that her husband's business is collapsing and the only way to save it is to develop her beloved "island," including Dayclear and the ponies' grazing lands, she realizes she must confront the part of herself that she has numbed with alcohol and careful avoidance, and she must reconsider her priorities. Luis challenges her to imagine what she would be "willing to die for," forcing Caroline to redefine her role in society, her marriage, and ultimately, herself.
Topics for Discussion
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of HarperTorch. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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