Using the BP oil spill timeline and facts as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster.
The battle between wildlife conservation and the oil spill serves as an example of the conflicts plaguing one family whose secrets have remained hidden until Caroline learns more about her grandfather’s history and her mother’s trauma during her teenage years. As the sea turtle leaves trails leading to the nests laid in the sand, secret journals leave another type of trail for Caroline to follow.
MY 5-STAR REVIEW OF TRAILS IN THE SAND
On the surface, Trails In The Sand by P. C. Zick centers around the massive Gulf oil spill of spring, 2010. Actually this is just the backdrop of the story and pales in comparison to the destructive force of one supremely dysfunctional family. But Ms. Zick’s book is much more, it is a cleverly drafted challenge to the reader to define their parameters for tolerance in human behavior. To me, that’s what makes the book so powerful.
The action takes place primarily from St. Augustine, Fl. to St. George Island, the ‘trigger’ on the Florida panhandle – familiar turf for me since I grew up there in the 50s and 60s, so I can attest to Ms. Zick’s accuracy of setting, color, and feel for the area, even though the time frame is a little later. Her narrative brought many memories flooding back to me of this very unique part of America.
Caroline is a 40ish journalist/naturalist who has been assigned to cover the effect of the oil spill on area wildlife, in particular the loggerhead turtles on St. George, who months earlier emerged from the ocean, crawled across the sand to the same spot where they were hatched, then laid their eggs. While Caroline tries to rescue the turtles from the man-made sludge threatening to annihilate them, she seems powerless to escape from the familial sludge engulfing her.
This goes back to her Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde grandfather. To his patients he was a saint, to his family he was often a monster, especially to his daughter Gladdy, Caroline’s abusive mother. And there was also no love lost between Caroline and her only sibling Amy, who was the apple of Gladdy’s eye, even though she suffered from anorexia. In addition, Caroline was in love with Simon from the time she was a child, but Simon married Amy instead. Caroline finally got Simon, but by stepping across her sister’s grave.
No spoilers here; this is just the beginning. It gets much more complicated with earth shattering revelations occurring right up to the last few pages. There’s Caroline’s rebellious niece Jodi, still in college, who despises Caroline for marrying her father before her mother is even cold in the ground. There’s Holly, Caroline’s best friend, who is a relationship therapist, but whose own love life is a disaster. There’s the mysterious George (think Sam Elliot) who knew Gladdy’s secrets from long ago. And BTW, who really burned down the family home? Then there’s Simon, duller than Ashley Wilkes. Why has Caroline been obsessed with him her entire life? Lots of page-turning enigmas.
I was impressed by how Ms. Zick never portrayed Caroline in heroic terms, yet still managed to make her compelling and somebody we root for – again shades of Ms. Mitchell. Caroline is definitely a daughter of the New South; strong, resilient, independent, but she does have a heart, just not a confectionary one.
In lesser hands Trails In The Sand could have degenerated into a salacious, soap opera, but Ms. Zick never lets that happen. Instead, she challenges the reader to examine these very flawed characters in a way that says, how would YOU judge them? She doesn’t make that judgement for us, and how the reader answers will reveal much about themselves. Ultimately, when all is said and done, like the turtles, all we leave behind is our trails in the sand. Highly recommended.
P.C. Zick began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She describes herself as a “storyteller” no matter the genre.
She’s published five works of fiction and two nonfiction books. Prior to 2010, she wrote under the name Patricia C. Behnke.
She was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. Even though she now resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert, she finds the stories of Florida and its people and environment a rich base for her storytelling platform. Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife – both human and animal – supply her fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.
Her fiction contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. In her novels, she advances the cause for wildlife conservation and energy conservation. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.
“This is one of the most exciting times to be an author,” Ms. Zick says. “I’m honored to be a part of the revolution in writing and publishing.”