I've never been to Charleston, South Carolina, but Margaret Bradham Thornton's debut novel brought the city to life for me.
Eliza has always known that at some point she will return home to Charleston. After college, graduate school, and an eventual move to London, a decade has passed before she makes the trip back to her hometown. And once she is there, Charleston is much as she remembered.
Her ex-boyfriend Henry is still in Charleston and although Eliza has a boyfriend, Jamie, who lives in England but hasn't traveled home with her, she is drawn to Henry. Part of the allure is the memory of what they once had. Part is the setting, which seems so familiar, as though they are picking up where they left off.
And yet a decade has passed. Henry has a son, Lawton, who is nine and is part of the reason Eliza's relationship with Henry fell apart the first time. As the two try to rebuild a life together, they must decide if they can truly go home again.
One of the strengths of this novel is Thornton's writing - her ability to make Charleston come to life, and to create characters that are alive and human. I quickly cared about Eliza and wanted her to find happiness.
Even as this novel ended, I could still see Eliza living in Charleston, attending parties for friends she has known her entire life.