Lowcountry author Beth Webb Hart begins every story by posing a question, and her latest release Moon Over Edisto is no different. In this one she asks, what would be the hardest thing to forgive someone for?
As a writer well-known for her discussion of grace and love for the unlovable, Hart manages to draw readers into her sixth novel with a doozy. "With this one, I dropped a bombshell at the very beginning," Hart explains. "That's unusual for me, but I wanted to create drama immediately and challenge myself in terms of plot."
In the first chapter of Moon Over Edisto, readers meet the successful artist and professor Julia on her Manhattan doorstep. Marney, a long lost friend blamed for breaking up Julia's parents' marriage years ago, has traveled from Julia's childhood home on Edisto Island to ask Julia for help. Julia hasn't spoken to Marney in years, but her former roommate has been diagnosed with lung cancer and needs help caring for her children — children that she had with Julia's late father. With no real family of her own, Julia is Marney's only option.
"Julia has to decide what she's going to do and how she's going to handle the situation," Hart says. "I mean, this woman at her door has broken up her family."
The first chapter of Moon Over Edisto hooks the reader, and the rest of the story maintains that intensity. "This book almost wrote itself," Hart says. "I usually start with a problem and feel my way along in a novel, but for this one, I plotted out the construction, laid everything out, and it quickly fell into place."
Unlike other novels that Hart has written, there is little mention of religion in Moon Over Edisto. There is, however, an underlying theme of forgiveness. "If something horrible happens, you can be bitter, or you can try to understand the woundedness and brokenness, like Julia eventually does," Hart says. "Once Julia gets back to Edisto and falls in love with the children, she sees the past from a different perspective."
All of Hart's characters are bitter and broken in their own way. "Through this struggle, all of the characters in Moon Over Edisto find a new peace," she says. "Everyone can relate to being betrayed by a family member. I hope to achieve a story of passion that will resonate with everyone, no matter where you stand."
Hart reserves a special place in her heart for Edisto, having spent many summers waiting tables at the Old Post Office Restaurant there in her youth. The Litchfield native fell in love with the island's rustic, raw, and untouched surroundings during visits home to her parents. "You feel like anything can happen on those roads," Hart says. Her first novel, Grace at Low Tide, was set on the island, and Hart "just felt like it was time to come back."
While the novel is not based upon Hart's real-life experiences, she did draw from a wealth of tales we've all overheard. "You hear stories ... and I turned those stories into what I thought would be the most jaw-dropping situation," Hart says.
Moon Over Edisto is Hart's final book in a six-book contract with Thomas Nelson Publishers, a feat that she never thought she'd achieve so easily. "Once you get rolling, there are ideas everywhere," she laughs. "I think that every writer has ideas. It's just a question of which one to pursue."
Following the release of Moon Over Edisto, Hart plans on taking a step back from adult fiction to pursue something new. "I would still like to write about Southern women, but I also want to explore a teenage, coming-of-age book," she says.
Hart has always tackled the harder questions found along a woman's journey through life, and she hopes to continue that literary legacy. "The themes that invariably surface in my stories are the same ones that I wrestle with in my own mind and heart," she says. "I am a Southern woman. I write what I know."