About The Book
Since the publication of Rubyfruit Jungle in 1973, Rita Mae Brown has been a major American literary voice and a best-selling author. In The Sand Castle, she revisits some of her most unforgettable characters: sisters Juts and Wheezie Hunsenmeir, and Juts’s precocious young daughter, Nickel.
It’s August, 1952, and seven-year-old Nickel sets off for a day at the seashore with her mother, aunt, and cousin Leroy. Everyone’s excited when they reach Chesapeake Bay—everyone except for Leroy, who is recently motherless and frightened of the world around him. Nickel delights in tormenting her cousin, but, as the group lounges on the beach and begins work on a magnificent sand castle, the sisters try to coax him out of his shell by telling stories about their own childhood trips to the shore. As the sun swings higher in the sky, Nickel’s taunting of Leroy escalates, and the weight of family history between her mother and aunt rises to the surface—and then a crab bites Leroy, and they must all come together. It isn’t until years later that Nickel can see that single day at the beach for what it truly was—a life-changing lesson about family and all the pleasure and heartbreak that comes with it.
The sly wit and generous humanity of Rita Mae Brown’s writing has earned her a place in the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. In The Sand Castle, she explores human connection in its purest form, through the lens of the ageless Hunsenmeirs.
“Feisty Southern sisters Juts and Wheezy . . . are back and irascible as ever. . . . Brown creates palpable tension throughout, largely with tightly constructed dialogue. . . . the final three paragraphs elevate this tale from bittersweet to heartbreaking.” —Publishers Weekly
A white-hinged sign with a big red crab painted on it loomed out of the thinning fog.
“Jesus.” Mother swerved to the right.
Her sister, Louise, replied sharply, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.”
“I didn’t, you twit, I took his son’s.”
“The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Same.”
“This is supposed to be a trip to the Bay. If I want religious instruction I’ll go to church.”
“Well, that’s just it, isn’t it?” Louise was smug. “You’re a Lutheran, which is God’s punishment. Otherwise you’d worship at the One True Church.”
Mother, sidestepping the bait for a fight dangled by her older sister—just how much older also a ripe subject for contention—shrugged. “God will forgive me, that’s His trade.”
Louise, pretty in what she deemed her mid-forties, crossed her arms over her chest. She was closer to fifty-two or fifty-three.
Awakened by the swerve, I piped up, “How long till we get there?”
“Not long.” Mother avoided being specific.
“Forty-five minutes. If this fog would lift we’d get there faster.” Louise feared driving in fog, which was sensible.
Mother feared nothing. At least that’s what I thought at seven. Although Mother drove, we rumbled along in Aunt Wheezie’s new black Nash with the dull gray interior. I hated the car but kept that opinion to myself. Why would anyone want to drive a car that looked like a cockroach? Even at seven I was a gearhead, which delighted my father and amused my mother. Leroy, still asleep next to me, evidenced no interest in motors even though he was a boy. He’d turned eight in June. I wouldn’t reach that advanced age until November, so those extra months pleased him even if cars did not.