Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen
After discovering her husband was unfaithful, Nora Keane returns to Burke’s Island–where she was born–with her two young daughters to escape the media attention that her high profile marriage is receiving. Nora has very few memories of the island, but the ones she remembers the strongest are those involving the disappearance of her mother.
On Burke’s Island, Nora reconnects with her aunt Maire, her mother’s jealous and often overshadowed sister. Though the island and its magic embraces Nora and her children, there are those on the island who are not as welcoming; they are the ones who can give Nora insight on who her mother really was.
The Cottage at Glass Beach is the first novel that I have read by Heather Barbieri, and because of my love for mermaids, magical realism, and seaside settings, this was at the top of my list for great summer reads. I was very intrigued by the magical elements, but unfortunately they are very ambiguous and much seems left up to the reader to decipher.
Nora’s relationship with her husband, Malcolm, is not the centerpiece of this novel. Instead, The Cottage at Glass Beach focuses on mother/daughter relationships and choosing one’s own path. Nora meets a mysterious man named Owen, who becomes a romantic interest for her. However, there are very few scenes with him, and I would have loved if he had been developed more.
I was most intrigued by Nora’s family’s secrets, but as they are revealed to the reader, I found them extremely confusing. This would be an interesting book to read for a book club just to see how everyone interprets the magical realism elements.
Heather Barbieri has a lovely writing style, and she perfectly captures what life must be like in a small, idyllic island setting. I only wish that she had done more with the selkie story line.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.