Friday, June 2, 2017

Grief Cottage

Title:  Grief Cottage
Author:  Gail Godwin
Publication Information:  Bloomsbury USA. 2017. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1632867044 / 978-1632867049

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Once there was a boy who lost his mother."

Favorite Quote:  "Funny how the same person can be an entirely different entity to various people."

A single mother goes out to get a pizza dinner and is killed in a car accident. Eleven year old Marcus is left orphaned. Charlotte, his eccentric older aunt, is left as the boy's guardian. The young boy finds himself grief stricken and removed from the only life he has ever known. A self-proclaimed loner finds herself having to take charge of a child. All of this takes place on the lovely coast of South Carolina.

Add to the mix a decrepit old beach cottage with a ghost story attached to it. A family - parents and a child who were on holiday - was lost to a hurricane. No bodies were ever discovered. Due to the tragedy, the cottage became known as Grief Cottage. Now, it sits abandoned and gradually crumbling into the sand.

In Marcus's life, the cottage becomes a focal point out of his own loss and grief. The idea of the cottage and and the mystery of the family's disappearance provides an an anchor as he drifts into his new life and his new home. The possibility of the boy's ghost still being in the cottage captures his imagination. The liberty to explore and this interest provides an outlet for his emotions. A ghost story to think about is much preferable to dwelling on the loss of home and even worse, the loss of his mother and the traumas of his childhood.

Charlotte has own baggage of loss and grief from the past. Marcus's arrival alters the seclusion she encases herself in. She is forced to face things she has long buried.

In this way, this book becomes a family story as, damaged and scarred, Marcus and Charlotte create their own family story line. The book also becomes a reflection on death, grief, and growing up.  An actual ghost story gives added dimension to this reflection.

The premise and build of the story works. Somewhere along the way, it loses me. The pace, especially the first two-thirds of the book, is very slow. For a while, it works. Then, it seems repetitive. Charlotte likes being alone. Marcus leaves her alone, disappearing to inspect the cottage and approach the ghost boy ever closer. Repeat the next day. And the next. And the next.

Then, towards the end, the fast forwards and tries to bring a closure to all the components of the story. The mystery of the cottage and the vanished child develops into an actual story rather than remaining a means to Marcus's healing. The book rushes to find a conclusion.

For some reason, the characters and the book doesn't quite ring true and does not quite connect. I find myself reading a little and then putting it away to read something else. I did finish but without any real connection or conviction about how it should end. That is surprising considering the story is about such a sympathetic main character - an eleven year old orphaned child who has had thing pretty tough in life.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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