Book Review: The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman
by Julie Failla Earhart, Walrus Contributor
Normally I don’t shop in chain bookstores, but Borders was going out of business and my husband gave me a hundred dollars and told me to knock myself out. I actually spent one-fifty and came home with thirty books. At the prices the books were going for, I bought a lot of authors with whom I am/was unfamiliar. One of them was Patricia Hickman, author of The Pirate Queen. This is Hickman’s eighth novel, and I can’t wait to read her previous seven.
As the story opens, a lawn party at Saphora Warren’s beautiful Lake Norman, North Carolina, home is winding down. Southern Living magazine was there, photographing the event. Saphora should be giddy with happiness. She has a beautiful home, three grown children, and a successful plastic surgeon-husband. Instead of celebrating, Saphora is planning to leave her husband, Bender. She’s had enough of his womanizing.
However, before she can make her escape, Bender arrives home. He says the only two words that can keep her from leaving: “I’m dying.”
With that simple utterance, Saphora’s life is turned topsy-turvy. She had planned to flee to their coastal home in Oriental. Instead, Bender insists that is where he wants to spend his last days. With the help of the maid, Saphora packs up and moves them. Going with them is their eight-year-old grandson, Eddie, whose divorced father cannot find childcare for him over the summer. When they reach the Outer Banks, Bender insists on stopping at the beach first. There they meet a young boy, Tobias, who they learn has AIDS. Tobias becomes Eddie’s best friend and teaches Saphora new lessons in love.
What was planned to be a quiet retreat between Saphora and Bender turns into a family affair as many descend on the coastal home. Among Bender’s illness and the family chaos, Saphora also is faced with an outcast friend of her grandson’s and a neighbor who spends most of the night digging in his backyard.
Bender’s illness and the care he requires is really a back story. Saphora handles each and every situation with the strength, elegance, and resiliency of a Southern woman. The story was well-crafted. Hickman handles two extremely hard diagnoses, Bender’s cancer and Tobias’ AIDS, with compassion, yet not letting the story get too sappy.