Genre: Literary Fiction / Family Life
Date of Publication: September 22, 2017
Number of Pages: 304
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When Sam Barnes’ high-flying life in Dallas falls apart, he flees to the coastal town of Port Aransas, Texas and fades into the life of a reclusive beach bum. But things start to change when he meets Dave, a young widower working through his own loss; Shelly, owner of the Dream Bean coffee shop; Bo, a crusty old shrimper; and Allie, Bo’s free-spirited daughter. Together they are tested and forced to confront their own issues. In doing so they discover family and community.
PRAISE FOR ARANSAS MORNING:
“Engrossing characters that keep doing unexpected things. Strong sense of place along the Texas coast and deep knowledge of the culture. This book is about relationships and how ‘family’ and ‘community’ might be redefined.”
“In this heartwarming book, Jeff Hampton took me to a place I’ve never been and captured me with his delightful characters, seaside landscape, and deft use of words to portray a small group of people who came together to create and run the Dream Bean cafe. Great summer reading.”
“I loved the characters, with their flaws and their graces. It is an honest and heart-warming story of redemption coming through community. I’m really glad I read it.”
“Really nice character development, articulating in a very comfortable and readable style the messy, complex, joyous and hopeful ways we build, break and nurture ‘community.’”
“Very quickly in the story, the characters became like friends. The book is engaging and held my interest.”
For me, characters carry a book. If I don’t care about the characters or find them impossible to believe, I can’t read more than a few chapters. Hampton’s characters pulled me in; hook, line, and sinker. And there was even a beautiful pace in which each new character came along and the narrative followed them a bit.
Sam Barnes is a beatdown man who just bums around the beach. He works the odd job so he can eat canned soup in his tin can of a trailer home. Locals know who he is, but nobody really knows him. In retrospect, Sam asking a man who is staring out at the water what he sees is a bit out of character. But it’s this interaction that changes everyone’s lives.
When Hampton follows a character, he seems to write in their voice yet maintains that third person perspective. The tone shifts are truly remarkable. When we’re with Sam, sentences are short and details are sparse. Shelly’s first chapter is descriptive and the language flows. Dave’s chapter talks about the present but constantly circles back to Debby, his wife who passed away a year prior. When Sam collides with Dave, which rolls them toward Shelly, everything is set into motion. As the book progresses, it feels like a single voice has taken over the narrative; either Hampton’s alone, or all of the characters as a collective.
I found it sad that Sam was sort of a wake up call for Shelly and Dave. Neither of them wanted to end up like him, destitute and miserable, so they made big decisions to leave their old lives behind to find new ones. But happily, they wanted to share their new lives with this man who was so much more than he seemed. “He dreamed of being a king but he’d always just been a jester.” (p. 4) was a line that grabbed me.
It was amazing to watch such strong characters with fierce opinions and habits to come together and achieve a common goal. Who could foresee that this strength and ferocity would transform into loyalty, trust, friendship, and love? And I think one of the big lessons of the book is that you have to forgive yourself once you’ve already been forgiven by others. Other gems I have taken away are the importance of living your best life, handling business matters with integrity and respect, and marching to the beat of your own drum.
My only critique is that I wish Hampton didn’t spell out situations so explicitly at times. He literally tells us about a jealousy that’s not romance based- it’s pretty obvious. When there is some friction between two of the main characters, he tells us why they’re acting cold to each other when we could already glean that from the previous scene.
I highly recommend this book to people who love a good redemption or personal transformation story. I am glad to hear that there will be an Aransas Evening coming soon. I look forward to reading it.
During a 35-year career in journalism and communications, Jeff Hampton has covered and written about topics ranging from business and finance to history and faith. His bylines have appeared in publications ranging from The Dallas Morning News to The New York Times.
He attended Baylor University where he majored in journalism and was editor of the Baylor Lariat campus newspaper. He began his professional career at the Waco Tribune-Herald and has written for newspapers, magazines, businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies.
Hampton has based his life and career in Texas where his interest in observing the people around him has led him to write essays, short stories, and novels that explore relationships and communities in their many forms.
Aransas Morning is his fifth book, following Grandpa Jack, When the Light Returned to Main Street, Jonah Prophet and The Snowman Uprising on Hickory Lane.
Watch for Aransas Evening, a sequel to Aransas Morning, in 2018.
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