Caroline Berry has grown disillusioned with her life in New York City, quitting two part-time jobs to spend three weeks at the Grand Hotel in Alabama. Her grandfather’s recent death has been a shock, and Caroline is unable to attend the funeral because of an attack of vertigo, an illness that has plagued her of late. However, her share of her grandfather’s estate allows this brief sojourn in the place he loved so well.
Formerly of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Caroline loves the legendary hotel and looks forward to this escape from the tedium she has begun to associate with New York: “Caroline tried to remember that the city didn’t only wear you down every day but could uplift you and give you joy.”
Finally ready to enjoy her sabbatical, Caroline heads straight into the path of Hurricane Ivan but decides that she will not evacuate as the other guests are told to do. Gathering supplies and hiding out in her room as the hotel is evacuated, Caroline survives the storm, later meeting a local swimmer on the beach, Walker Galloway, just before he plunges into the roiling ocean.
Walker becomes a catalyst for Caroline’s writing, his fictional persona resolving some of the dilemmas Caroline faces in her own life - the grieving process for her father and recently deceased grandfather, and a reassessment of her goals. Daniel Lanaux, a tennis pro from the hotel and Walker’s best friend, tells Caroline more about the missing man, with whom she felt an instant identification. She also begins a romance with Daniel.
Through Walker’s character, Caroline deals with her unresolved grief over her father’s death and a yearning for closeness with her mother. However, the novel is burdened with an unusually needy heroine, undeveloped characters and a fairly transparent plot. Still, the story has a coming-of-age quality that will doubtless appeal to young adult readers, the message of a young woman following her dream, committing finally to her writing.
Despite an overly ambitious plot, it is Caroline’s ingénue quality that creates an enjoyable experience. Caroline has known sorrow but expresses her feelings in childlike, romanticized reflections of the past, the fullness of loss still eluding this protagonist. Her attachments are fanciful, Paddock’s main character lacking the passion of one who has matured through pain.
Still, Point Clear has a certain charm for a late teen and older audience who can sympathize with Caroline’s dilemma and celebrate her progress. Many of her issues resolved through her sojourn at the Grand Hotel, Caroline returns to New York renewed and ready to write her novel.