Mary Alice Monroe Books in Order (Beach House, The Islanders, Lowcountry Summer)

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Born in 1951, Marie Alice Monroe is a novelist and environmental conversationalist who studied journalism before married in 1972 Markus Kruesi, a child psychiatrist. Following their honeymoon in Japan, Marie Alice Monroe was inspired to study Asian culture and became bilingual in Japanese, and earned her master’s degree. Before becoming an author, Mary Alice Monroe worked as an assistant to the general editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, as a teacher, and helped establish a program to teach English as a second language to Southeast Asian refugees.

In 1980, she first co-wrote a non-fiction book, Crossroads to Literacy, which served as a guide to help immigrants acclimate to life in the United States. It was only in 1995 that Monroe began writing her first fiction novel. As she was confined to bed during the last months of her third pregnancy, she took up the pen and wrote The Long Road Home. Her first novels are all about women overcoming tragedy and developing interpersonal relationships.

How to read Mary Alice Monroe’s Books in Order?

The Beach House Series

The Beach House series is centered around the Rutledge family and the Lowcountry. The books offer intimate portrayals of women’s lives and explore environmental issues. For more details, go to the Beach House Series reading guide.

  1. The Beach House (2002)
  2. Swimming Lessons (2007)
  3. Beach House Memories (2012)
  4. Beach House for Rent (2017)
  5. Beach House Reunion (2018)
  6. On Ocean Boulevard (2020)
  7. The Summer of Lost and Found (2021)

Companion Book:

  • Turtle Summer (2007) – Join mother and daughter as they patrol the beaches searching for sea turtle nests, and then stand with them under starry skies as they protect the eggs and young hatchlings. Turtle Summer is the journal described in Swimming Lessons.

Lowcountry Summer Series in Order

  1. The Summer Girls (2013) – 80-year-old Marietta Muir is a dowager of Charleston society who has retired to her historic summer home on Sullivan’s Island. At the onset of summer, Marietta – “Mamaw” – seeks to gather her three granddaughters – Carson, Eudora, and Harper – with the intent to reunite them after years apart.
  2. The Summer Wind (2014) – It’s midsummer, and Eudora, nicknamed Dora, is staying at Sea Breeze, the family’s ancestral home on Sullivan’s Island. For years, Dora has played the role of the perfect wife and mother in a loveless marriage. Now her husband has filed for divorce, her child is diagnosed with autism, and her house is on the market. Mamaw and the girls rally around Dora – but it’s up to Dora to heal herself as she spends the summer prowling the beach, discovering the secrets of the island and her heart.
  3. The Summer’s End (2015) – Harper, the youngest sister, arrives at Sea Breeze intending to stay only a weekend. But a rift with her wealthy, influential mother leaves her without direction or a home. During this remarkable summer, free from her mother’s tyranny and with the help of her half-sisters, Harper discovers her talents and independent spirit. But summer is ending, and the fate of Sea Breeze hinges on her courage to decide the course of her own life.
  1. A Lowcountry Wedding (2016) – Nothing could be more enchanting than a summer wedding – or two! – in Charleston’s fabled Lowcountry. A centuries-old church, an avenue of ancient oaks dripping moss, a storied ballroom, a sand dune at sunset… Yet when a stranger arrives, a long-held family secret could silence the bells ringing for the Muir sisters. Scandals surface, family bonds are questioned, and promises are broken and renewed.
  2. A Lowcountry Christmas (2016) – As far as 10-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it’s the worst Christmas ever. His father’s shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told, they can’t afford the dog he desperately wants. “Your brother’s return from war is our family’s gift,” his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, family strains darken the holidays. Then Taylor’s service dog arrives – a large black Labrador/Great Dane named Thor. His brother even got the dog! When Miller goes out on Christmas Eve with his father’s ax, determined to get his family the tree they can’t afford, he takes the dog for company – but accidentally winds up lost in the wild forest. The splintered family must come together to rediscover their strengths, their family bond, and the true meaning of Christmas.

Children’s Books in Order

  • A Butterfly Called Hope (2013) – The colorful flowers in Mama’s garden reveal a strange-looking creature. What is it? Does it sting, does it bite? Join in this photographic journey as the young girl and her mother care for the caterpillar. Watch as it transforms into a chrysalis and then emerges as a beautiful monarch butterfly. How can the young girl -claim- the butterfly as her own but still let it go free?

The Islanders Series (with Angela May)

  • The Islanders (2021) – Eleven-year-old Jake is spending the summer on tiny Dewees Island, a nature sanctuary, with his grandmother. He’s barely on the island before he befriends two other kids-Macon, another “summer kid,” and Lovie, a know-it-all who lives there and shows both Jake and Macon the ropes of life on the island. They quickly bond, going on adventures all over Dewees Island. Until one misadventure on an abandoned boat leads to community service. Their punishment? Mandatory duty on the Island Turtle Team. The kids must do a daily dawn patrol of the beach on the hunt for loggerhead sea turtle tracks. When a turtle nest is threatened by coyotes, the three friends must find a way to protect it.
  • Search for Treasure (2022) – Jake Potter is back on Dewees Island for another summer with his beloved grandmother, Honey. This time, Jake is excited that his dad will be there as he continues to recover from his injuries sustained in Afghanistan. But Jake also knows they both need to get used to a new normal, which isn’t easy. Jake also discovers that his two best friends, Macon and Lovie, are struggling as well. To cheer everyone up, Jake decides that the trio needs a new mission, just like they had the previous summer. He discovers that his dad loved spending time in an old tree fort on the island, and there is a special treasure box hidden somewhere nearby. Jake just knows if he can find it, maybe his dad will be happy again-and he knows Macon and Lovie are the perfect fellow treasure hunters!

Standalone novels

  • The Long Road Home (1995) – Recovering from the shock of her husband’s suicide and trying to deal with his debts, Nora MacKenzie looks for peace on the small farm in Vermont, but a handsome farmhand shows up and her reaction is anything but peaceful.
  • Girl in the Mirror (1998) – Charlotte Godowski was used to horrified stares: she’d learned to accept her facial deformity. Until one cruel incident compels her to have surgery that changes her life. Now, Charlotte Godfrey is beautiful beyond compare. In Hollywood, her rise is meteoric. Suddenly, she has everything she could want: love, acceptance, and a future. But she can trust no one with her secret. Then fate forces Charlotte to deal with the truth . . .
  • The Book Club (1999) – On the surface, it is a monthly book club. But for five women, it is so much more. For Eve Porter, whose husband’s sudden death cheats her of every security she had planned on, the club is a place of sanctuary. For Annie Blake, a brilliant attorney intent on starting a family late in life, it is the chance to finally let down her guard and dream of other possibilities. For Doris Bridges, it is her support group as she acknowledges her dying marriage and finds the ultimate freedom in her husband’s betrayal. For Gabriella Rivera, the “perfect” wife, mother, and friend who offers support to everyone but is afraid to ask for it herself, it is a sense of community. And for Midge Kirsch, an artist who has always lived her life against the grain, it is a haven of acceptance. They are five women from different walks of life, embracing the challenge of change. And as they share their hopes and fears and triumphs, they will hold fast to the true magic of the book club – friendship.
  • The Four Seasons (2001) – Jillian, Beatrice, and Rose have gathered for the funeral of their younger sister, Meredith. Her death, and the legacy she leaves them, will trigger a cross-country journey in search of a stranger with the power to mend their shattered lives. As the emotions of the past reverberate into the present, Jillian, Beatrice, and Rose search for the girls they once were, in hopes of finding what they really lost: the women they were meant to be.
  • Skyward (2003) – E.R. nurse Ella Majors has seen all the misery that she can handle. Burned-out and unsure of her next step, she accepts the temporary position as caregiver to Marion Henderson, a frightened five-year-old who suffers from juvenile diabetes. Then something magical begins to happen: the timeless beauty of the South Carolina coast and the majestic grace of the wild birds weave a healing spell on the injured hearts at the sanctuary. But a troubled mother’s unexpected return will test the fragile bonds of trust and new love, and reveal the inherent risks and exhilarating beauty of flying free.
  • Sweetgrass (2005) – Sweetgrass is a historic tract of land in South Carolina that has been home to the Blakely family for eight generations. But Sweetgrass-named for the indigenous grass that grows in the area-is in trouble. Taxes are skyrocketing. Bulldozers are leveling the surrounding properties. And the Blakelys could be forced to sell the one thing that continues to hold their disintegrating family together.
  • Time Is a River (2008) – Rehabilitating from breast cancer in a North Carolina mountain sanctuary, Mia London discovers the lost journal of a 1920s fly-fisherwoman, whose writings inspire Mia to reconnect with the natural world and investigate a local secret.
  • Last Light Over Carolina (2009) – Every woman in the sultry South Carolina low country knows the unspoken fear that clutches the heart every time her man sets out to sea. Now, that fear has become a terrible reality for Carolina Morrison. Her husband, shrimp boat captain Bud Morrison, is lost and alone somewhere in the vast Atlantic fishing grounds, with a storm gathering and the last light falling. Over the course of one terrifying, illuminating day, Carolina looks back across thirty years of love and loss, joy and sorrow…
  • The Butterfly’s Daughter (2011) – Every year, the monarch butterflies-las mariposas-fly more than two thousand miles on fragile wings to return to their winter home in Mexico. Now Luz Avila makes that same perilous journey south as she honors a vow to her beloved abuela-the grandmother who raised her-to return her ashes to her ancestral village. As Luz departs Milwaukee in a ramshackle old VW Bug, she finds her heart opened by a series of seemingly random encounters with remarkable women. In San Antonio, however, a startling revelation awaits: a reunion with a woman from her past. Together, the two crosses into Mexico to await the returning monarchs in the little village Abuela called home, but they are also crossing a border that separates past from the present . . . and truth from lies.
  • The Summer Guests (2019) – When a hurricane threatens the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, an eclectic group of evacuees flees for the farm of their friends Grace and Charles Phillips in North Carolina. During the course of one of the most challenging weeks of their lives, relationships are put to the test as the evacuees are forced to confront the unresolved issues they have with themselves and with each other. But as the storm passes, they realize that what really matters isn’t what they brought with them to the mountains. Rather, it’s what they’ll take with them once they leave.

As Mary Alice Kruesi:

  • Second Star to the Right (1999) – One Summer’s Night (2000) – Laurel Carrington stood poised on the brink of womanhood, desperately longing to experience the joys of love. So, she impulsively grabs at a chance to leave the cocoon of her family in search of life’s adventures–never dreaming that her life would be turned upside down by the enigmatic Dane. He teases her senses and offers her a chance to explore an irresistible world of hidden delights…

If you like Mary Alice Monroe, you may also want to see our guide to the books by Elin Hilderbrand or by Kristin Hannah.

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  1. We always enjoy catching up with books by Mary Alice Monroe about IOP and Sullivan’s Island. We visit 3-4 times every year plus my brother now owns a Beach Club condo in Wild Dunes. We’re coming back to IOP in two weeks.

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