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literary inklings

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The Denim Blue Sea by Joanne DeMaio


In her new novel, bestselling author Joane DeMaio returns to the idyllic beach town of Stony Point where friends come together for a wedding celebration that brings old wounds to the surface.

While Joanne DeMaio has written five consistently wonderful books, perhaps her most memorable characters first appeared in her 2013 novel, Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans. It was the story of beach friends Maris, Jason, Eva, Matt, Kyle, and Lauren as they reunited years after a tragic accident killed Jason’s brother, Neil, the pillar of their collective friendship. Each suffered Neil’s loss in varying ways; Jason harbored a relentless guilt over his own survival of the accident, while for Lauren the memory of her love for Neil clouded her relationship with her husband Kyle. In The Denim Blue Sea, DeMaio revisits her characters from Stony Point as the friends gather together for Jason and Maris’s wedding day. It’s a time of celebration as Maris and Eva settle into their newly-realized sisterhood, as Jason and Maris prepare to make a lifelong commitment to each other, and as Kyle and Lauren return to the beach with their marriage stronger than ever. But as the sea breeze changes without warning, so too does the peaceful summer when their old beach town once again brings back difficult memories and the ghosts of wounds left unhealed.

The Denim Blue Sea is filled with all the hallmarks of DeMaio’s work, from the poetic narrative to the lush descriptions of seaside life that bewitch a scent of salty sea air right into the reader’s world. The many characters from her former novel are brought back to the pages with all their original charisma, each stepping back into the reader’s mind with instant familiarity. There’s a running theme throughout the novel, of matrimonial bliss and hardship alike; but the strongest thread that ties the stories of DeMaio’s characters together is the commitments we make to those we love, and how love itself can sometimes find a way to challenge those commitments. It’s the novel’s one character to never fully appear – Neil – whose memory tests each friend’s commitment in unexpected ways. For Jason, it’s the arrival of an unwelcome figure from his past, and the soul-searching journey of how this unforeseen reconnection might help him come to terms with the loss that's still so painful; for Maris, it’s the discovery of a much-loved journal and the secrets it contains, which could turn past wounds into entirely new challenges; and for Kyle and Lauren, it’s a burning truth that lies unresolved between them and, when exposed once again to the memories waiting for them at the beach, could ultimately tear them apart.

The emotional complications that arise from each character’s struggle are unfolded before the reader in DeMaio’s ever-luminous prose, which finds no shortage of inspiration from the sea, itself an extraordinary life form that teaches us about patience and acceptance, about how to slow down, how to pay attention, and especially how to endure through any storm. As Maris designs her new denim collection, inspired by Neil’s teachings on the sea’s majesty, the nuances of a dreamy beach life become vivid; but as the characters of the novel face their struggles, through arguments and heart-opening conversations alike, DeMaio reminds her reader that life and the sea have a lot in common: they may not be peaceful all the time, but the beauty is always there to be seen. With the author’s familiar blend of poignant drama, heart-warming romance, and idyllic seaside charm, The Denim Blue Sea brings Stony Point to life in a way that will make its readers feel as though they never left.

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