Aransas Morning book cover

Aransas Morning

ARANSAS MORNING
by
JEFF HAMPTON
  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.”
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Aransas Morning will sneak up on you when you least expect it, lasso your heart, and then tug at it throughout the story! Reader beware!

When the story opens, we are taken to Mustang Island, just south of Port Aransas, Texas, and we meet Sam. Unsure how likable he would be, I immediately pictured him as a not-so-young beach bum – a drifter. The author really doesn’t give us a lot to go on. There’s no action, no conflict, no drama. But that’s because it’s only the calm before the storm.

We are introduced to a few more characters, and then we become privy to the backstories. Now things are starting to make more sense. By the time the author throws in some conflict, you are utterly hooked! You can’t get away!

The structure of Aransas Morning is very much like a hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico. At first, there’s no indication of anything bad on the horizon. A few dark clouds start to appear, but you keep reading. By the time the literary storm arrives, it’s too late to evacuate. You have to keep reading and see the conflict through. There is resolution, and the drama seems to disappear. Don’t be fooled like I was; you’re only in the eye of the storm. And remember, the backside of a hurricane is more severe than the front!

The Setting – Mustang Island

Map showing Mustang IslandMap showing Mustang IslandI’d be remiss if I didn’t go deeper into the setting. If you ever went with your family to a beach when you were a kid, this story will bring a wisp of nostalgia. It’s all there: the sand, the surf, the small beach town with weathered buildings. If you want to take that a step further, try listening to sounds of waves breaking on the beach as you read the story. You can almost feel the sand between your toes!

There are so many sensory treats that go along with a beach town setting, and the author did a fabulous job of filling the story with them. From the salty air and sandy breezes to the horns of passing ships, your imagination is in for a real treat.

The Characters of Aransas Morning

My only gripe with this story is the characters. Maybe they seem too real. They are all delightfully flawed, so when a character does something that I didn’t think he or she would do, I felt a little offended. As a simile, how would you feel if Superman saved someone from a burning building, and then robbed them? It would be completely out of character, am I right? It’s that kind of thing I’m talking about. There were at least two times I can think of where a character did something that was out of character. Maybe I only feel this way because I can connect with the characters so vividly.

All the characters come with their own unique backstories, so any semblance of stereotype is eventually contradicted. And they all mesh together so well! This story is a perfect example of how a group of strangers can become like a family.

Technically Speaking

The character arcs are very good. Aside from my earlier comment about characters being out of character, the author did a fantastic job of making the characters seem genuine. This may seem a little contradictory, but if you read the story, you’ll understand. If you step on a sharp rock when walking on an otherwise smooth beach, it may sting a little, but you keep walking. It’s like that.

There were no SPAG issues to speak of, and the pacing was pretty near perfect. This was one of the few stories I’ve read that had a slow and unremarkable beginning, but then evolved into something I just couldn’t put down. I read the last third of the book in a single sitting because I didn’t want to wait to see how something turned out!

Do I recommend Aransas Morning? If you enjoy a story with great characters, this one is for you. It’s a very easy read.

Will I read the sequel when it comes out? You bet!

I received a free copy of this book from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review.

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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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