Release Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 bookmarks
Synopsis: After his mother's death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she'd moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.
The islanders call it -Grief Cottage, - because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.
*This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
Marcus Harshaw, the eleven year old protagonist, loses his mother in a tragic car accident and must travel to live with his only known relative, Aunt Charlotte. Charlotte, an edgy alcoholic artist who seems to disdain too much contact or unnecessary talk, quickly establishes a summer routine for Marcus that sets him free to explore his new small South Carolina island home. While Marcus is discovering and making contact with the ghost of a boy lost in a hurricane decades ago, Charlotte is working through her own crisis brought on by injuries from a drunken fall making her normal painting impossible. Charlotte and Marcus must each confront their own personal ghosts and secrets to find their way forward into optimistic new futures.
Godwin masterfully threads her themes of grief, loss, tragedy and rebirth throughout her novel. When it seems that Marcus, Charlotte, Lachicotte, Coral, and other characters have found their designated way forward, Godwin drops a final life changing revelation in with less than a page left. How utterly different life could have been is revealed - and left up to the reader to imagine and contemplate.
Godwin’s characters are wonderful: human, fallible, quirky and intriguing. Godwin layers their worlds together in believable interactions with stellar dialogue. We get peeks into lives of ordinary people that are anything but ordinary and perhaps even heroic in their small actions and deeds. Like the island on which they live, Godwin’s characters are wind swept, briney and touched with a gentle glow.
As for plot, perhaps Godwin’s story may have been better served with a few less twists and turns. Less can be more and for Grief Cottage that may be the case.
A well written book with fantastic characters, fully developed setting, steady action, and sensitive writing, Grief Cottage is highly recommended and well worth reading and enjoying.
Cathy Cagle has been getting yelled at for reading too much since 4th grade and credits books with teaching her most of what she knows about life. When not working as a sales and marketing coach, Cathy can often be found chasing her kids to pick up those dang socks, reading yet another great book, talking with her dogs, digging in the garden, making something fabulous to eat or hanging with her best friend and partner, Ron.