The debut novel, Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano is hard to pigeonhole. The story is set in a beach town and yet more than a summer beach novel. The main character, Kathleen Deane, is a newly retired, middle-aged woman recovering from the shock of being dumped after thirty years of marriage.
Candidly, the protagonist lets the reader know that the marriage wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either. So, after decades of muddling through life, her husband Tom decides to travel the world to discover the meaning of life.
Meanwhile, Kathleen decides a change of scenery will get her life back on track. She buys a beach house. Sight unseen except through a grainy video. Then the “fun” begins. Environmental activism stirs the growth of the lead character as she struggles to reshape her own identity.
Many Levels of Save What’s Left
The characters in Save What’s Left were quite unique. Some were likeable. And a few were grating. However, most perplexing is Kathleen. She becomes a strident advocate to save what’s left of the natural beachscape. Thus, much of the story is told through her numerous complaint letters concerning the McMansion materializing just outside the window of her humble home.
Castellano does justice to this theme of urban growth crowding out natural landscape in former rural areas. So, those from coastal areas grasp the dilemma immediately. Furthermore, the activism of the lead character and the roadblocks she encounters ring with truth.
Save What’s Left does have a storyline. Local corruption circumvents covenants protecting the seashore. Furthermore, the misconduct goes beyond the boardroom complicating Kathleen’s advocacy. And involving secondary characters important to the growth of the protagonist. Tangling matters more, Tom reappears. Their tenuous relationship weaves its’ way into the plot. Tom’s character is quite interesting.
Recommendation for Save What’s Left
I picked up Elizabeth Castellano’s novel at the bookstore for multiple reasons. First, the name jumped out at me. One of my favorite East Coast based jockeys shares the same surname. (Highly doubtful they are related, but one never knows.) Then, the fact it was a debut novel. I love giving new authors support. Finally, the cover design. A small beach house much like I grew up in juxtaposed with a sugar cubed McMansion.
I didn’t quite like a few of the characters, nor the plot structure. The numerous complaint letters often interrupted the action flow. (However, the letters are integral to the story.) Yet I could not put the book down! A key win for Ms. Castellano. I can’t wait to see what she publishes next.