Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Sea Air, Salt Water & Salvation

Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans: A Novel
By Joanne DeMaio

319 pages. CreateSpace (March 11, 2013)

Over a year ago, I first “met” debut author Joanne DeMaio through her blog. New to blogging myself, I reviewed her first novel, Whole Latte Life. I was honored when she asked me to review her second novel, Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans.
“Someone once told her that the sea air and salt water are cleansing. They cure what ails you.”
Visit Joanne DeMaio's website.
Maris Carrington first met Eva Lane on vacation at Stony Point Beach as a girl. Reconnecting each summer until graduation, the women remain good friends into their thirties. Maris returns home to Connecticut following her father’s death after twelve years away chasing a denim-designing career in Chicago. When on an impulse she decides to linger at the beach a few weeks and finalize her father’s estate, Eva is thrilled. Together Maris and Eva decide to gather old beach friends for a July 4th party. Then Maris plants flower seedlings at her rented beach cottage, needing time to reflect on more than her father’s death.

Eva married Matt Gallagher and stayed close to home as a pregnant wife at eighteen. Though happy as a wife, mother and realtor, she was adopted and obsessively searches for her birth family. Local cottage renovator and architect Jason Barlow lost his brother Neil and part of his leg in a horrific motorcycle accident six years ago. Kyle Bradford struggles to keep his marriage together and his family local after another layoff in the steel industry. Meanwhile, his wife Lauren longs for a lost lover and dreams of an easier life of painting seascapes on driftwood by the beach.

Told from the perspective of five characters, their stories wind through the regrets, memories, and distant hopes by the seaside of the Long Island sound. The novel, in keeping with its seaside setting, begins with a whirlwind of characters, present and past, then eases into a comfortable, soothing rhythm. Maris, Eva, Jason, Kyle and Lauren, though flawed, are highly relatable and complex people. Each faces either long-hidden family secrets or life-altering challenges.

In both novels, DeMaio excels with themes featuring loss and redemption, lasting connections and unconditional love. In Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans, her poignantly told story weaves the power our past holds with hopeful healing by the sea. It is a sensory story where simple images spark strong memories: looking out the window in a childhood home, a weathered rowboat moored on the beach, and the train whistling past a summer hangout.

Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans reconnects the beach and the past for old friends. In coming together they each find the solace and acceptance they need to rebuild their lives, their relationships, their careers, and their connections to each other.
“This beach has a way of casting its spell right through the windows under the guise of sea and salt, the call of the gulls, the sound of the waves.”
 And another passage I love.
“Time moves like the sea. She always felt so. Living right at the beach, time is placid and calm, soft waves of it rolling onto the shore of her days. One day follows the other, over and over, in a comfortable and reassuring way. No matter what she is doing, at any age, that awareness of the movement of the sea, and of waves of time, keeps her grounded."


  1. Hi Valerie,

    Enjoyed your lovely review so much. I'm sending a virtual coffee cheers of thanks your way, and am so appreciative of your sharing your thoughts on the story.


  2. Wow. That sounds really good. I love the plot, and her writing sounds very lyrical.