By Emma Woodham, Staff Writer for The Island Eye News
Photos by Barb Bergwerf
Isle of Palms resident and New York Times Bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe recently launched her latest book, Beach House Reunion, with an event at the South Carolina Aquarium.
“I’m a little overwhelmed. This truly is a turtle-lovers’ reunion,” Monroe said.
Dozens of guests lined up at the entrance to the aquarium on Thursday night, despite the light rain falling outside. When the doors opened for the after-hours launch, each guest received a signed copy of Monroe’s latest book, the fourth in her well-known Beach House series. Guests snacked on sandwiches, dips, and slices of caramel cake from Caroline’s Cakes while they meandered throughout the aquarium. A special treat for many was catching a glimpse into the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery area where sick and injured sea turtles are brought for treatment and rehabilitation, a topic familiar to many of Monroe’s readers thanks to her novel, Swimming Lessons.
Monroe addressed her fans—whom she lovingly refers to as friends—and thanked the Island Turtle Team and the South Carolina Aquarium. While conducting research for Swimming Lessons, Monroe volunteered her time at the aquarium to learn more about the process of treating sick and injured turtles who are brought in. She added that when the first turtle was brought in years ago, the aquarium had to use a kiddie pool until they figured out how to set up their hospital. Since that time, donations have helped the sea turtle hospital grow and flourish.
“I cut my teeth on sea turtles not just at the beach, but also here, at the aquarium,” Monroe said.
Monroe encouraged everyone to be guardians of the sea turtles. One very special guardian, Sally Murphy, was honored at the event. Murphy has been a dedicated advocate for sea turtles for over thirty years and worked tirelessly to see that Turtle Excluder Devices were used on shrimp boats, allowing turtles to escape from the shrimpers’ nets. She was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of many laws and regulations designed to protect sea turtles.
Murphy was presented with an engraved Goat Island Treasure Box, and a plaque will be erected in her honor.
“South Carolina owes you a great deal, Sally,” Monroe said.
Cassandra King Conroy, wife of the late Pat Conroy, was in attendance, and Monroe stated that Pat Conroy was one of her biggest mentors.
She also pointed out her husband, daughter, and grandson who had come out to support her.
Monroe’s daughter, Gretta Kruesi asked the audience for a brief favor—to sing “Happy Birthday” to her mother, who celebrated her birthday on May 25.
Following the presentation, Monroe signed books for her fans. Buxton Books was on hand with copies of Monroe’s latest book and her other works.
While she signed, dozens of fish swam in the Great Ocean Tank behind her, creating a truly unique backdrop for the event. Fans lined up for a chance to speak with Monroe and have their signed copies of Reunion personalized.
A true representative of the Lowcountry spirit, Monroe greeted each of her guests with a warm smile and a few genuine words before leaving a heartfelt inscription on the inside of their book.
“Thank you to everyone who has read my books,” Monroe said.