Review

The Cottage at Glass Beach

by Heather Barbieri

The cottage at Glass Beach has brought Nora Cunningham full circle --- from her birth in the cottage on Burke's Island to her return at age 34 to escape from the chaos that had become her life following the discovery of her politician husband's infidelity and the resulting media frenzy. Nora hopes to put the pieces of her life back together, as well as fill in some of the blanks that her father refused to talk about following the death of her mother. Nora hopes that Aunt Maire, who still lives on the island, will agree to help her.

"THE COTTAGE AT GLASS BEACH has an ethereal feel that is a result of the author's frequent poetic descriptions and insights. She creates a longing in the reader to find that quiet island that would provide a place to rest and regroup, to examine oneself and make good decisions."

Nora's daughters, Annie and Ella, are not at all enthusiastic about leaving their comfortable Boston home for a musty beach cottage in the middle of nowhere. Not only are they city girls, they did not want to be away from their father despite his unfaithfulness. Yet Nora hopes to spark some interest in their heritage and to ease some of their pain over being separated from their dad. She feels that there is something healing about the sea.

Between Nora's mystical Irish ancestry and myths surrounding the ocean and its creatures, Heather Barbieri has created a modern-day tale combining all three elements. And the more Nora discovers about her past, the more the myths and sea stories play into the plot. Are there hidden caves out on the island where shipwrecked sailors are rescued by seals? Are skelties really seals that shed their skin and take on human form in order to help people?

Where did the mysterious fisherman come from just at the time Nora and Maire needed help? Who is Ronan, the helpful young man who meets with Annie on the beach and swears her to secrecy?

THE COTTAGE AT GLASS BEACH has an ethereal feel that is a result of the author's frequent poetic descriptions and insights. She creates a longing in the reader to find that quiet island that would provide a place to rest and regroup, to examine oneself and make good decisions. But one soon realizes that even such idyllic places can become chaotic when people are present. Not all of the islanders welcome strangers. In fact, one demented woman is convinced that Nora is her mother come back to taunt her and screams curses at her whenever she sees her. Others think that Nora may be there to con Maire out of her home so that she can tear it down and build a hotel.

For the most part, the characters are well developed and accomplish the plot roles designed for them. However, unless the reader is familiar with some of the myths that are mentioned, it may be difficult to separate the real from the mythical. Of course, anyone with two daughters of the preteen variety will have no problem believing the antics of Annie and Ella --- from constant bickering over meaningless issues to secretly calling their father and asking him to come to the island. Yet one is left with some unanswered questions regarding Owen Kavanagh and Ronan. I'm thinking there may be a sequel in the making.

Reviewed by Maggie Harding on June 8, 2012

The Cottage at Glass Beach
by Heather Barbieri

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0062107976
  • ISBN-13: 9780062107978