Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri

The Cottage at Glass Beach
Author: Heather Barbieri
Published: May 15, 2012
Genre: chick lit
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm. Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters--Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve--and takes refuge on Burke's Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides.

Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades--not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt's friend Polly suggests, a selkie--a mythical being of island legend--summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles? Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own--a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.

My Thoughts: I heard about this book a few months ago and thought that it would make for a great summer time read. I love books that are set along the New England coastline and this one sounded like a good one. Now, Heather Barbieri has written short fiction in the past, which I found to be very apparent in this, her first novel. The story is short and sweet. Barbieri writes very vivid descriptions of the settings and what Nora, the main character is feeling, but she always seemed to be rushing to get the point across. I felt like she could have expanded upon the plot a bit more, especially in regards to Malcolm's affair. As a reader, I felt like there was little knowledge about this shared by Barbieri. Nora mentions several times how embarassed she is, but we don't know the whole story. I just wish that the affair has been expanded upon so we would have a better reference as to why Nora feels the way that she does.

I loved the setting in this book and Barbieri writes about it so beautifully. She references old Irish tales and you can see how they would tie in perfectly with the rugged Maine shoreline. I also loved Annie, Nora's youngest daughter. Her innocence really added something to the book and made you want to believe in those old Irish tales. Ella, Nora's eleven year old, is a bit of a toss-up for me. I loved the contrast that she provided to Annie and Nora. She doesn't believe in the magic of the coastline and just wants to bring their family back together. For me, the thing that I didn't like about her was her age. I feel like she talked more like a 14-16 year old, not an 11 year old. I think that if Barbieri had made her a bit older, she could have made the story a little richer.

Heather Barbieri has written an interesting book, showcasing how one woman deals with an embarassing moment and decides to reconnect with her past because of it. I really enjoyed this book and am anxious to see what Barbieri does in the future.

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