Second Star to the Right by Mary Alice Monroe – a Review.


Everyone’s knows Peter Pan, or so they say.  Most would likely tell you it’s a children’s tale about a boy who didn’t want to grow up.

They wouldn’t be wrong.

But they wouldn’t be right.

I believe the reality is that many have simply forgotten the real meaning behind J. M. Barrie’s classic.

In the past week I realized all that I had forgotten from Peter Pan, or Peter and Wendy, as the Barrie novel from more than a century ago is known.

And for this realization, I have Mary Alice Monroe to thank.

I’ve read a number of Monroe’s books mainly because they are frequently set along the South Carolina coast so it was a bit surprising for me when I realized Second Star to the Right didn’t involve South Carolina and that I would also be reintroduced to one of the all time literary classics.

A quick overview of Second Star. 

Faye, a just divorced, single mother of two young children, Maddie and Tom, has moved to London to start/resume a career she left some years previous.    The family settles into a London flat, Number 14.  The flat is also home to Jack, a research scientist, and Mrs. Forrester, an eccentric and reclusive elderly woman who lives on the top floor of the home.

It becomes apparent from the beginning that Faye had a very tumultuous marriage and that she is very protective of her children as a result.   As the story progresses, Jack befriends Faye and the children.   Soon, as everyone is under the same roof, Mrs. Forrester is brought into the proverbial fold and soon, it’s as if one large family is living at Number 14. 

Of course, there’s tension and complications.  It seems Mrs. Forrester’s daughter has other plans for the house and is none to happy with the communal turn of events at Number 14.

There is also mystery in the character of Mrs. Forrester.  Who is she?  Is she simply eccentric? Dangerous? Just plain crazy?  Just what is happening on the third floor?

As the story progresses, we learn that Barrie, Wendy, Peter Pan and, in fact, all of Neverland are an important part of Second Star.  (The title even comes from Peter Pan and the directions to Neverland.)

Perhaps the essence of the story can be summed up in one of the first meetings between Faye and Jack.  It is clear that Jack believes a healthy imagination is a benefit for children.  Faye feels otherwise.  Neither budge from their position rather they make a wager where Jack vows to prove his point to Faye.

This discussion sets the theme for the book.  Second Star is about a mother’s fight to make it on her own, it’s a tale of romance, it’s a story of family tension, it’s about learning about one’s past, and that regardless of your age, there is magic still to be found.

However, most of all, it is about realizing that it’s okay to dream.  It’s okay (and encouraged) to hope.  It’s okay to make believe.  It’s okay to believe in fairy tales.

And not just for children, but for the child in all of us.

While I had forgotten about the Lost Boys, about Tinker Bell, about Wendy and Peter and most that was Neverland, thankfully,  Monroe clearly hasn’t.

Without rehashing the tale of Peter and Wendy, Monroe reminds us all that’s been forgotten about Barrie’s classic tale.  But not just the things that make up Neverland, but what it is felt like when you first learned of Peter and his delightful crew. 

Monroe lets the reader understand that it is okay to believe.  That just because you have grown up doesn’t mean that you can’t still hope for a little magic or for a dream to come true.

Monroe does an amazing job of taking that which is practical in life and tempering it with a dose of make believe in Second Star.  Not to say that Second Star is a work of fantasy, quite the opposite.  Second Star makes you want to believe that there is magic out there still. 

Second Star lets you understand that it’s okay to dream, it’s okay to be an adult and remember those magical moments from you childhood (and even hope they happen again).  Second Star lets know its okay to sleep with your window open.  I’d bet that Mary Alice Monroe still does.

Fans of literary fiction, romance, and character driven fiction will enjoy Second Star to the Right.  

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