Thursday, January 26, 2012

Laurie Hendry Graybar's "Off the Dock"

A few weeks ago, during my Internet social time, a passing photo caught my eye. I clicked on it and was delighted to find the cover of a book featuring a young girl scampering down the Dekle Beach dock. No way could I mistake that dock. After a few more clicks I discovered the book “Off the Dock” was a soon to be released novel by Perry native, Laurie Hendry Graybar.

I went on to read the recommendation by Perry’s own Michael Morris, “Fix a glass of sweet tea, sit back and savor this tale - An exciting mixture of Sweet Home Alabama and C.S.I.”

I’m off the sugar, so I skipped the tea, but ten minutes after the UPS man brought the books in the door, I kicked back under the breezeway out in front of the Book Mart and proceeded to read the tale. I had only read a few chapters when Ms. Graybar’s father, Chuck, drove up and caught me. The grin on his face when he saw what I reading was priceless.

“Off the Dock” begins in 2001 with the main character, Caroline, still having nightmares and seeing a “head doctor” after the trauma of losing her brother to violence over 20 years before.  The death has never been explained, and through therapy, Caroline is inspired to reexamine her brothers murder, taking her back to those terrible days in the late 1970s when he disappeared. She enlists the help of the original detective in the case, and receives assistance and support from an unlikely ally.  Soon, she finds herself threatened by the same murderer.

The setting is the fictitious southern beach settlement of Culley Cove on the Gulf of Mexico. It shines through that the inspiration was our own Dekle Beach. However, it is not an exact replica, Culley Cove has its own sense of place and originality.  It works.  

As familiar to me as the setting were the characters and family relationships. While I had no urge to think about who they were based on, I felt I knew them because you have to face it, we here in Taylor county are just the slightest bit different.  Ms. Graybar captures those nuances in the descriptions and dialogue.

Family matriarch “Gammy” stands out as the epitome of the strong southern women we all know and love.  The character Double Barrel reminds me of my neighbor that likes to go out back and shoot his gun on Sundays after church.

For the first few chapters, after the setting and family relationships were established, I was afraid I was in for a tear-jerker.  But then it took off and did not let go.  There were sad moments, and serious subjects addressed. But there were also laugh out loud scenes mixed in among the action and building climax. While reading the last third of the book, whenever someone would drive up and interrupt my reading, I would grumble as I slipped the bookmark between the pages.  For me, that’s the mark of a good book.

Laurie Hendry Graybar is a graduate of Taylor County High School and Florida State University.  She lives in Tallahassee.  “Off the Dock” is her first novel.

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