Read an excerpt from her latest novel which hits bookstores June 2019.

By Nellah Bailey McGough
January 17, 2019
The Summer Guests Book Cover
Credit: Simon and Schuster

When I interviewed award winning novelist, Mary Alice Monroe, in 2018 about her novel, Beach House Reunion, she mentioned this new book she was working on. However, I had no idea that the lead character from the beloved Beach House series would be a part of it. Being a huge fan of Mary Alice Monroe's writing, I was beyond thrilled when the first words I read from the excerpt were "Cara Rutledge." Even though new characters will be introduced in this book, it's a warm feeling knowing that familiar faces will be a connecting thread running through her newest novel. Mary Alice is known for shining the light on conservation of many endangered species but now ventures into an exciting new world of North Carolina's horse country when a hurricane is threatening the coast and people, pets, and horses must evacuate. Mary Alice has generously agreed to share her personal thoughts on what to bring during a hurricane evacuation.

WATCH: Visitor's Wild Horse Selfie Leads to Strong Warning From Expert? "Please, Please, Please Don't Do This."

Here in her own words…

I live on a barrier island off Charleston, South Carolina and I can tell you from experience, evacuation is no fooling. What do you take with you? When a disaster is approaching, you're nervous, frightened, and time is of the essence. If you're not prepared ahead of time, you're likely to forget something important. Be prepared for the idea that you might never be able to come back to your home.

The question of what to bring for an evacuation is at the core of my upcoming novel, The Summer Guests. I believe evacuation will be a major issue in the next decade as we face increasing storms, drought and flooding. In the novel, my characters flee a hurricane, but the questions they ask are the same for anyone fleeing any natural disaster. What should I bring with me? What do I treasure?

After twenty years living on the South Carolina coast, I've learned the most important thing to pack is a Grab and Go kit. That is a collection of important legal, financial and insurance documents you'll need in case of emergency. I use a plastic, seal tight file box with a handle. I keep this kit in a convenient place so when it's time to evacuate and I've got a million things on my mind, I won't forget important papers. Some of these documents are not likely easily replicable, like birth certificates, social security cards, wills, medical directives, power of attorney, guardian papers, adoption records, and all financial paperwork. I also keep photos of my home and important furniture/antiques, china, crystal in a digital archive in the event I'll need to file an insurance claim.

I update my Grab and Go kit when the hurricane season begins June 1 and keep it handy until it ends November 30. Cara Rutledge, my heroine in The Beach House Series, is no stranger to hurricanes. She is a character in The Summer Guests as well and brings her Grab and Go kit!

The rest I pack when I make the decision to leave. Thankfully with a hurricane, we have time to prepare. Here's what I recommend you don't forget:

  • Cash. ATMs may be out of money.
  • Prescription Medicines and medical equipment. My husband goes nowhere without his CPAP.
  • Computer. I go nowhere without my computer. When I evacuated Hurricane Floyd the first thing I grabbed was my computer and floppy disks for the novel due a month later!
  • Telephone and charging cords. I doubt you'll forget your phone, but you'd be surprised how many people forget the charger.
  • Toiletries. Makeup isn't important, but do bring essentials like shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste. And moisturizer. You may be gone longer than you think.
  • Comfortable clothes and shoes. Underwear that will dry quickly if you wash in the sink.
  • Pets. Please don't leave your pet behind. They cannot fend for themselves and it's heartbreaking to watch the rescues of terrified animals, many of whom are never reunited with their families. More hotels are opening their doors to pets during major hurricanes. Pack pet food, leashes, meds, and a crate if you can fit it in your car. I choose my birds over the silver. In The Summer Guests the characters evacuate their horses!
  • Fill your gas tank.

The choices you make concerning what to bring and what to leave behind are personal. Space in the car is an issue. When I evacuated Hurricane Irma I left behind material things and filled up the car with my five canaries and three dogs. And my cavalier was in heat! When I arrived at my friend's horse farm in North Carolina, several other guests were arriving with their horses and dogs in tow. The demand for stables was so great, the Tryon International Equestrian Center opened their doors to evacuating horses. There were Grand Prix horses near rescue horses! It was an amazing gathering of people, horses, dogs, and babies. A time of camaraderie--women supporting women, taking care of children and others in need, cooking and cleaning, and chipping in to care for animals. We were evacuees, bound by circumstance and hope.

Lives were changed in the span of five days as we realized how precious life was—and how powerful nature. When the hurricane passed, and it was time to return home, we all had a better sense of what we treasured most in life.

And I returned home with a book bubbling in my heart.

Climate change will have an effect on the severity of the storms we face in the future. The oceans are warming faster than previously estimated, setting a new temperature record in 2018. Rivers and creeks will rise and flood. Drought will bring more fires. No matter where you live, it is important to be prepared for evacuation. Ask yourself, what do I treasure?

And don't forget to bring a good book to read!

Mary Alice Monroe Headshot
Credit: Courtesy of Mic Smith Photography

Chapter One

August 15, 2018, 7:15 a.m.
Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Cara Rutledge rubbed her arms and looked out over the Atlantic Ocean. The mercurial sea rolled in and out in its metronome fashion, reflecting the blue-gray color of the sky. The beach was nearly empty, the vast expanse of sand scarred only by her footprints. All seemed calm. Even the golden panicles of the sea oats hung still in the pensive air. Yet she sensed a heightened tension coiling under the calm façade of the water, like some great beast rippling, lying in wait to pounce.

Cara shivered, though it wasn't cold. She was a tall, slender woman accustomed to daily walks along the beach with her daughter, Hope. She'd spent her childhood on this beach, and had returned as an adult to make the quaint beach house, Primrose Cottage, her home. From May until October she was on the Island Turtle Team, like her mother before her. After a lifetime living beside the ocean, she felt attuned to the moods of her old friend. And today, something felt off.

Cara inhaled the salty air and placed her hand against her chest. There was an unusual heaviness in the air. A moistness that tasted of rain. She was no stranger to summer storms, or the havoc they could wreak. She also knew that she was unusually skittish when it came to storms. Cara had lived through too many hurricanes not to be on guard. And yet, she didn't want to panic. There was a wave out in the Atlantic the meteorologists were keeping an eye on, but it was August, the height of the hurricane season. There were a lot of storms that lost steam or changed direction long before they neared landfall.

She was leaving the island this afternoon to visit the mountains of North Carolina with David Wyatt and his family. It would be a welcome change of pace with the lush green foliage, cooler air, and hiking. She might even get some horseback riding in. She exhaled slowly. Yes, she thought with relief. She was working herself up over nothing. Whatever storm was coming would likely blow in and out by the time she returned. And, she thought with a hint of a smile on her face, she was bringing along with her the one thing she treasured most in the world—her daughter, Hope.

Cara turned her back on the ocean and, swinging her arms, began her trek across the beach toward home.

Copyright © 2019 by Mary Alice Monroe. From the forthcoming book THE SUMMER GUESTS to be published by Gallery Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed by permission.