Trails In The Sand by P.C. Zick

Trails In The Sand

Review Copy

Book Review – Trails In The Sand by P.C. Zick

Every person has a past. Every family has its secrets. Before you dig up either, you should ask:

Are you ready to face the realities you find?

That is the question Caroline, Simon and Jodi must ask themselves time and time again as one secret after another rears its ugly head in P.C. Zick’s fifth novel, Trails In The Sand.

Trails In The Sand is the beautifully written, intricately interwoven story of three Southern families – the Stokleys, the Carlisles, and the McDermotts – that spans across four generations. The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of three main characters:

  • Gladdy’s daughter, Caroline, an environmental journalist who causes a family rift when she marries her childhood sweetheart Simon after two failed marriages. Caroline is following the plight of endangered sea turtles as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill (better known as the BP Oil disaster).
  • Simon, an attorney, who marries Caroline shortly after the death of his first wife, Amy – a life-long anorexic who also happens to be Caroline’s older sister. His cousin Jason recently died in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster of West Virginia – the biggest mining disaster in US history – and he is helping Jason’s widow, Susan, navigate the murky legal waters.
  • Jodi, Simon’s and Amy’s adopted, college-age daughter, who considers Simon’s and Caroline’s marriage a slap in the face to her mother, and vows to never forgive either of them. Unbeknownst to Simon, Jodi recently left Auburn and has returned to her family’s home to process recent events.

If your head is already beginning to spin, don’t worry – PC graciously provides a genealogy chart at the beginning of the book!

The book opens on the beach of St. George, Florida in 1956, where 15-year old Gladdy Stokley and her older brother Alex are watching a loggerhead turtle lay eggs. The scene is far from idyllic, however. Through a flashback to the earlier events of the evening, we meet family patriarch Arthur Stokley – who is both the cruel father Gladdy hates and the gifted doctor the town loves. What happens next forever shapes Gladdy’s life and those of the generations to come – but we do not understand or unravel the mysteries this pivotal moment holds until the end of the story.

Will these discoveries completely dissolve a family whose relationships are already riddled with decades of hatred, dysfunction and mistrust? Or, will they ultimately be able to put aside their differences and find the healing that forgiveness brings?

Trails In The Sand reflects the author’s keen ability to create complex characters and to weave together their lives in intricate and creative ways.

Trails In The Sand is a rewarding read – and a fine addition to your literary fiction collection.

Following are two of my favorite quotes from the book:

Caroline: The lack of information about my grandfather created an abyss in his history that only fueled my curiosity. As a journalist, I discovered very early in my career that when gaps appear in a story, it isn’t because there’s nothing there. Quite the contrary – the gaps are the only story that matters.

Susan: But as difficult as it is, always remember that family is our connection to the past, our sustenance in the present, and our hope for the future. When we lose someone we love, we lose a whole library of wisdom and love. Don’t squander or take for granted anyone in your life who loves you. There is no guarantee that person will be here tomorrow.

Be sure to read the Chapter One Excerpt at the end of this review and to enter the Giveaway!

About P.C. Zick

PC Zick
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.

P.C. has published four works of fiction and one nonfiction book. Prior to 2010, she wrote under the name Patricia C. Behnke.

P.C. was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. She now resides in Pennsylvania with her husband Robert.

Her fiction contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.

P.C. says, “This is one of the most exciting times to be an author. I’m honored to be a part of the revolution in writing and publishing.”

For more information:

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Worldwind Virtual Book Tours to review. I was not compensated or required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

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Trails In The Sand by P.C. Zick – Chapter 1 Excerpt

Caroline – April 20, 2010

Our paddles caressed the water without creating a ripple as we floated by turtles sunning on tree trunks fallen into the river. A great blue heron spread its wings on the banks and lifted its large body into the air, breaking the silence of a warm spring day in north Florida.

The heron led us down the river of our youth stopping to rest when we fell too far behind. The white spider lilies of spring covered the green banks of the Santa Fe River in north Florida.

“Do you remember the spot where we always swam?” my husband Simon asked. “Isn’t it around here?”

“I can’t remember back that far,” I said.

Simon pulled his kayak up alongside mine as a mullet jumped out of the water in front of us and slapped its body back into the water.

“Still the dumbest fish in the river,” I said.

The leaves on the trees were fully green and returned to glory after a tough winter of frosts and freezes. Wild low-growing azalea bushes were completing their blooming cycle, and the dogwoods dropped their white blossoms a month ago. The magnolia flower buds would burst into large white blossoms within a month.

Simon and I missed the peak of spring on the river. However, we finally escaped our work on a warm Tuesday morning in late April.

“I hope things settle down. We should spend all summer on the river,” Simon said.

“Maybe we can get Jodi to come with us when she gets home from Auburn,” I said.

“Don’t count on it. Promise me you won’t be disappointed if she refuses.”

“I wish you wouldn’t be such a pessimist. That upsets me more than anything.”

Simon didn’t respond, which usually happened when I tried to talk about his daughter Jodi.

When we were kids, Simon and I spent many days in an old canoe on this river. Those idyllic days ended when he married my sister Amy. I never forgave Amy, even when she died two years ago. I eventually forgave Simon.

Even though I didn’t miss or mourn my sister, Jodi, my niece, did. She lost a mother she loved and believed Simon and I trampled her mother’s grave when we married nearly a year ago.

“At least winter is over,” Simon said. “Let’s hope for a quiet hurricane season.”

A turtle dove from a rock into the river as we approached. Either our voices or the sound of lapping water from our paddles sent it swimming. I was happy to note the freshwater turtles didn’t seem impacted by the atypical cold of the past few months. The sea turtles hadn’t fared so well.

I followed the sea turtle story for three months from the Gulf to the Atlantic coasts of Florida. The supreme effort to rescue cold-stunned turtles and rehabilitate them for release was overwhelming in its sheer numbers of both wildlife and volunteers. As an environmental and wildlife freelance writer, I’d written dozens of stories since January on the rescue and recovery operations. Miraculously, the majority of the stunned sea turtles survived and were in the process of being released back into the warming waters.

When Simon and I married the previous year, I vowed to curtail my traveling. Yet Simon never complained when I left our home in St. Augustine over the winter months as freezing temperatures caused iguanas to fall from trees, manatees to congregate near power plants, and sea turtles to become ice sculptures. He kept busy with the opening of his new law office, relocated from his previous home in Calico, sixty miles away. Just when the cold weather disappeared, and as I was finishing writing a series of articles on the cold winter’s impact, Simon left for West Virginia. On April 5, his cousin Jason McDermott was one of the twenty-nine coal miners killed when Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine exploded. Simon went home to West Virginia for the funeral. He stayed for more than a week helping Jason’s parents and his widow, who was pregnant with their third child. Until Simon and his family moved to Florida when he was fourteen, Jason had been his best friend. The two remained close over the years, and I knew Simon mourned Jason’s death.

“I’m glad we’re playing hooky today,” Simon said. “It’s about time we made it back to the river.”

“Let’s keep floating until we reach the Suwannee River and then the Gulf of Mexico,” I said.

“Sounds like a plan as long as you don’t find any sea turtles to rescue along the way.”

“Don’t worry, Simon, I’ve got my hands full with you.”

The next morning the whir of the coffee grinder woke me as Simon churned beans into grounds for our daily ritual. I savored that first sip of coffee every morning. Simon used only the darkest roast with an oily sheen. Every morning he brought me a steaming mug of the brew along with the morning papers. If my eyes weren’t open when he came into the room, he bent down and gently kissed me on the forehead.

“Good morning, baby,” he’d say, and I’d look up into his smiling face, his blue eyes twinkling a greeting. His eyes mirrored my own blue eyes. At one time, we both had blonde hair, but now with age, Simon’s had turned white while mine remained the same color of our youth, thanks to L’Oreal.

As I sipped the aromatic brew, I glanced at the morning’s headlines before the television and George Stephanopoulos diverted my attention.

It was only a blip on the charts of the day’s news stories. I would have missed mention of it if I’d gone to the bathroom when George said an oil rig had caught on fire in the Gulf of Mexico the night before. On the morning of April 21, 2010, other news took precedence over this minor incident occurring miles off the coast of Louisiana.

As I flipped the channels to find more news, I learned that volcanic ash from a recently erupted volcano in Iceland was costing airlines $1.7 billion to combat the loss in flights. The day before the Supreme Court overturned a ban on videos depicting animal cruelty. Matt Laurer announced the death toll after the April 14 earthquake in China now topped 2,000.

CNN reported that a former coal miner at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia decided to give an interview detailing the unsafe conditions at the mine prior to the explosion two weeks earlier.

But nothing more on a little oil rig burning in the middle of the ocean. Since the fire occurred the night before, the morning newspapers contained no reports.

I took another sip of coffee, trying to determine the level of my reporter’s barometric pressure climbing up the back of my neck.

“Were you listening to NPR in the kitchen?” I asked Simon as he came back to bed with his cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice.

“No. Why?”

“Just a curious little footnote to the news this morning, but I’ve only heard it on ABC so far,” I said. “It seems an oil rig caught on fire out in the Gulf last night. The report said eleven men are missing, but officials are confident the men are on lifeboats that haven’t been found yet because of the smoke on the water.”

“It sounds like it has the potential for a real disaster,” Simon said.

“They also said a former miner decided to talk about conditions at Upper Big Branch mine,” I said. “Sure wish I could have gotten that interview.”

A couple of the channels gave a brief account of the oil rig fire, but all agreed everything was under control. I hoped that was the case, but it bothered me when all the reports said the fire still burned. How did they have any idea what lay below the surface of that fire?

“Yesterday, April 20, was the eleventh anniversary of Columbine,” I said. “And the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day is tomorrow.”

“And the West Virginia explosion occurred on your mother’s birthday, April 5,” my husband said.

He knew very well I kept track of dates and wondered at the curiosity of so many significant occurrences in history coinciding with other dates important to those closest to me. In my family, birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths more often than not occurred on important historical dates. Two of my aunts had been born on December 7, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor – a day of infamy. My best friend Holly was born on Christmas Day, and my sister died on the Fourth of July just two years earlier.

“I guess I better make some calls,” I said. “I’m a little skeptical that all is well in the Gulf.”

“Getting one of those hunches?” Simon asked.

“My ears are starting to tingle, so I better listen.”

I wouldn’t say I was clairvoyant or possessed powers of prescience, but I had a journalist’s instinct for news whether I was dealing with my job as a freelance environmental writer or as a woman assessing a person’s intentions. I learned over the years to follow those instincts. First, I felt something akin to hair rising on my neck. However, when I felt the tingling in my ears that sent a shiver down my spine, I began to pay attention to every little detail. The skeptic in me was still simmering beneath the surface even though my marriage to Simon the year before took some of the sharper edges off the knife of my cynicism. Love works miracles, but my transformation was still a work in progress. For the sake of my career, that was probably a good thing. I needed to question everything, or I’d never have a story.

I wondered where to start finding out about the fire. For nearly three decades, I made my living by writing about the environment and wildlife, with human interest thrown in the mix. One of the most recent stories took me to the Panhandle of Florida where a bear wandered into a residential neighborhood only to be darted with a tranquilizer by a wildlife biologist with the state wildlife agency. The drugged bear stumbled into the Gulf of Mexico before collapsing from the tranquilizer. The biologist wanted to knock the bear out temporarily, not drown him. He swam out to rescue the unconscious animal, dragging it back to shore. Photos of the rescue taken by a resident went around the world.

I wrote investigative pieces about illegal dumping of hazardous waste in rivers in far too many places in the United States. I wrote about environmental disasters and crimes whenever I received a tip from my sources that I’d cultivated and coddled over decades of trying to find the perfect quote. I wrote a story a few years back about a wildlife CSI lab in Oregon. I traveled across the country for stories filled with dramatic flourishes that somehow touched lives. I waded through the swamps of the Everglades hunting the invasive Burmese python, and I followed a group of camel traders in the deserts of Morocco, all in pursuit of the story.

When Simon came back into my life, I made the decision to give our marriage my full attention. I curtailed the scope of my writing, concentrating on stories from the southeastern Atlantic coast.

“Just when I thought our lives might settle down,” Simon said as he sat on the edge of the bed, flipping through the newspapers.

“You and I will never settle down. It’s our karma to be perpetually stirred up,” I said as I leaned forward to give him a kiss on the cheek.

This excerpt is from Trails In The Sand by P.C. Zick,
Copyright © 2012 by P.C. Zick,
All Rights Reserved.
Used With Permission by Create With Joy.

Copyright © 2013 by Create With Joy. All Rights Reserved.
If you see this content posted elsewhere, please contact the site owner.
Thank you for helping to prevent content theft!

10 Responses to “Trails In The Sand by P.C. Zick”

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  1. P.C. Zick
    Twitter: PCZick

    Thank you so much for reviewing Trails in the Sand and hosting the book on your lovely blog today. The quotes you chose are the heart of the family matters, and I appreciate that you pulled them out to showcase.

  2. P. C. Zick
    Twitter: PCZick

    Hi – I apologize if this is the second thank you – I thought I left one earlier but I don’t see it. So thank you so much for reading, reviewing, and featuring Trails in the Sand on your blog today. You have a lovely site, and I’m happy to have found you so I can read all your posts.

    • Create With Joy
      Twitter: CreateWithJoy1

      Thank you so much Patricia (and not a problem!)

      For those who are new, I moderate my comments so that 1) I don’t have to trouble you with bothersome captchas – and 2) I can keep the spammers off of my site!

      Because I try to respond to as many comments as I can – and because I am not always on to approve comments when they come in – there is sometimes a delay in processing them (but I cherish and read them all!)

      I’m glad we connected and I look forward to getting to know you! 🙂

  3. This sounds like a really good read. As I commented on another post, I don’t get the time to read that I would like, but I am definitely going to get this book. Thanks for sharing. Janet

    • Create With Joy
      Twitter: CreateWithJoy1

      Awesome Janet! This book is 400 pages, so it will take you awhile to get through, but it’s a quality read – would love to hear your thoughts whenever you’re through!

      Be sure to enter the giveaway – perhaps you’ll be the lucky winner! 🙂

    • PC Zick
      Twitter: PCZick

      Thank you! I hope you find the time to read. I feel blessed that my job as a writer requires I read. I’m happy you k liked what you saw here.

  4. Rachelle Ayala (@AyalaRachelle)
    Twitter: AyalaRachelle

    What a wonderful review of Trails in the Sand. I love the quotes you picked out for Caroline and Simon. Good thoughts to remember.

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