Friday, November 24, 2017
Books

Review: Ann Kidd Taylor's 'Shark Club' is a real beach read

RECOMMENDED READING


Sometimes love comes upon you gently, in a sidelong look, a flush to the cheek, the brush of a hand.

And sometimes it just bites you on the leg and leaves a scar.

The latter is the case in Ann Kidd Taylor's charming debut novel, The Shark Club. Its narrator, Maeve Donnelly, was 12 years old when she had her first kiss, standing with her first love, Daniel, in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico. Seconds later, a blacktip shark knocked Daniel off his feet and then took an experimental bite out of Maeve's calf.

The shark let her go literally (humans are not preferred prey), but not metaphorically. Seized by a fascination with sharks, by age 30 Maeve is a globetrotting marine biologist specializing in studying those mysterious, beautiful and much-feared creatures.

As The Shark Club opens, Maeve has come home to Florida for a visit with her grandmother, who raised her and twin brother Robin after their parents died in a plane crash. On the beach at the hotel her grandmother owns — the same beach that was the site of the first kiss-first shark bite scenario — Maeve meets an irresistible little girl named Hazel, who is just as interested in sharks as Maeve is.

Then Hazel's father shows up. It's Daniel. Daniel of the first kiss, Daniel who broke Maeve's heart by having an affair that resulted in Hazel's birth, and whom she hasn't seen since.

He's now head chef at the hotel's restaurant and full-time parent to Hazel, after the death of her mother. And he makes it clear he'd like to rekindle his relationship with Maeve.

He's sexy, he cooks, he has a cute kid, he's sorry he hurt her — so what's the holdup? One problem in their relationship before was that he was willing to make career sacrifices for domestic life, and she wasn't (refreshing twist, that).

Their attitudes haven't changed — Maeve has a study of whale sharks in Mozambique coming up, and she plans to go. And, oh, on her last research trip in Bimini, she worked with a dashing British scientist named Nicholas, and he's just up the road at a marine center in Sarasota, and maybe he'll go to Mozambique, too.

Further complicating Maeve's life are Robin's about-to-be-published novel, which is based on her past and not in a way she likes, and an illegal shark-finning operation in local waters that is leaving mutilated sharks to die, spurring her to her own risky investigation.

Taylor, who co-wrote the bestselling Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story with her mom, Sue Monk Kidd, lives in Southwest Florida. She brings a wealth of sharply observed detail to this novel, from the right way to make key lime pie to the joys of dealing with tourists. She also carefully researched sharks and gives props to real-life scientists Sylvia Earle and Eugenie Clark.

For me, one of the most seductive features of The Shark Club is the setting, the Hotel of the Muses. Owned by Maeve's grandmother, Perri, and situated on the Gulf in the fictional town of Palermo (which sounds like the real town of Naples), the hotel "is overrun with books." It has a library trolley and hosts readings and book clubs.

"Every one of the eighty-two rooms," Taylor writes, "was dedicated to an author whose work Perri admired — Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Gwendolyn Brooks, Octavio Paz. ..." She even quotes a fictional rave review of the hotel from the Tampa Bay Times. If that hotel were real, I'd write that review.

Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.

Comments
When to watch ‘Rudolph,’ ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘A Christmas Story Live’ and more holiday specials

When to watch ‘Rudolph,’ ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘A Christmas Story Live’ and more holiday specials

'Tis the season for a TV schedule packed with holiday specials and Christmas classics.We've already been seeing Christmas movies and commercials since early November, but the days following Thanksgiving are when all the networks kick into high gear.F...
Published: 11/22/17
How ‘A Christmas Carol’ was born

How ‘A Christmas Carol’ was born

Charles Dickens’ best-known and most beloved book almost didn’t happen. In 1843, Dickens, then 31, was already dealing with the downside of international success. He had followed bestsellers like Oliver Twist with several flops and was s...
Published: 11/22/17
What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

MondayDavid Letterman: The Mark Twain Prize, 9 p.m., PBS: A special celebrating the work of Late Night and The Late Show host David Letterman.SERIES PREMIERE: Big Hero 6 the Series, 8 p.m., Disney Channel: The new animated series takes place after th...
Published: 11/20/17
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

WINNERS:Taylor SwiftFollowing the death of his mother, Gloria, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon shared a touching story with the audience about his mom squeezing his hand three times and saying "I love you," when he was a kid. "Last week, I was in ...
Published: 11/17/17
Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

The parents in Runaways really are the worst.Hulu's new Marvel series follows a ragtag group of teenagers who have to band together to defeat their own parents, who are collective members of a secret criminal organization called the Pride.In the wake...
Published: 11/17/17
What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

What to watch this weekend: ‘The Punisher,’ ‘Search Party,’ Elizabeth Smart Lifetime movie

GRIEF AND GUNS: THE PUNISHERMarvel fans first saw Marine veteran Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) in Netflix's Daredevil series. The brutish anti-hero finally gets his own series with The Punisher, exploring what he did after helping Daredevil (Charlie Co...
Published: 11/17/17
Review: George Saunders’ ‘Sea Oak’ makes a dead-funny TV comedy

Review: George Saunders’ ‘Sea Oak’ makes a dead-funny TV comedy

Recently, George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.And now he has a TV show about zombies!Saunders, one of America’s best writers of fiction, won the 2017 Booker for his splendid novel Lincoln in t...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward wins National Book Award for ‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’

Jesmyn Ward is having a good year.At a glamorous ceremony Wednesday night in New York, Ward was named the winner of the 2017 National Book Award for Sing, Unburied, Sing, about a Mississippi family's epic road trip. The book is Ward's third novel ...
Published: 11/16/17

Events: Tampa historians to sign books at hurricane relief benefit

Book TalkNancy Christie (Rut-Busting Book for Writers) will sign her book at 11 a.m. Nov. 20 at 321 Books, 6901 22nd Ave. N, St. Petersburg.John Cinchett (Vintage Tampa Storefronts and Scenes), Rex Gordon (History of Hillsborough High School), Linda ...
Published: 11/16/17