The summer reading round-up continues with “Grief Cottage” by Gail Godwin. Eleven-year-old Marcus goes to live with his reclusive Aunt Charlotte after the sudden death of his mother. Aunt Charlotte is a painter who lives on a small island off the coast of South Carolina. Fiercely independent, prickly and secretive, she nonetheless steps up to shelter the great nephew she’s never met. She takes Marcus on a tour of the island and points out an abandoned cottage famous locally for the owners who were lost in a hurricane many years ago. Charlotte first achieved recognition for her painting of this desolate site, which she called “Grief Cottage.” Lonely Marcus takes to wandering the island and becomes obsessed with learning about the young boy who’d been lost in the storm. Slow moving, evocative and elegiac, this novel manages to be a ghost story, a coming-of-age story and a mediation on life and loss and family.
“The Only Child” by Andrew Pyper is truly the most eerie book I read this summer. Criminal psychiatrist Dr. Lily Dominick is assigned to a murderous sociopath who, to her horror and confusion, committed his horrific crimes just to get close to her. He purports to know her family’s secret history and teases her with details of her mother’s unsolved murder that no one besides Lily could know. Is he the mysterious man who rescued Lily from her mother’s murderer when she was a child? Or is he the murderer himself? Lily has repressed the details of her mother’s violent death for so long she is not sure she can rely upon her memory. The story becomes increasingly tangled and dark as Lily seeks the truth about herself, her origins and the mysterious man who seems to know so much about her. A complicated read with many crisscrossing timelines and narratives, this novel surprises with an unforgettable ending. Don’t start reading it at night!
Last but certainly not least, “The Distance Home” by Orly Konig is a sweet, slight and quick summer mystery and romance. When protagonist Emma Metz’s father dies suddenly and she must return home to settle his estate, her disturbing past returns with vengeance. Old issues are explored and dealt with, ghosts are laid to rest and relationships if not resolved are at least clarified and owned. What made this novel interesting enough to finish was the equine setting; Emma was a gifted equestrian once and her return to the riding world makes for interesting details about riding lessons and horse shows. With a side plot about therapeutic riding programs and their effectiveness and likable characters, this is a pleasant, undemanding summer read.