Grief Cottage

In Gail Godwin's novel Grief Cottage, Marcus Harshaw is 11 years old when he faces the sudden, tragic death of his single mother. That summer he is left in the custody of his great-aunt Charlotte on a remote South Carolina island. His new guardian--a thrice married and divorced, set-in-her-ways, reclusive artist--takes in precocious, self-contained Marcus, and provides him a safe haven.

The young man's formative years with his mother--and their chronic struggles to make ends meet--made Marcus wise beyond his years, enabling him to adapt and be sensitive toward his aunt's brooding, hermetic life. Charlotte gained notoriety painting images of a deserted, dilapidated local house nicknamed Grief Cottage; its occupying family disappeared during Hurricane Hazel in 1954. The battered, run-down residence becomes a source of intrigue for Marcus, too, as he seeks to learn more about its history and those who perished there. This quest also unearths questions about Marcus's background--his relationship with his mother, how he lost his best friend from school and the identity of his absent father.

Godwin (Publishing: A Writer's Memoir) has written an exquisite narrative with metaphor embedded in subplots like the preservation of nested Loggerhead turtle eggs and the presence of a ghost at Grief Cottage. This grace-filled story probes aspects of life and death, isolation and family, and how great pain and loss can ultimately lead to unforeseen transcendence. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

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