Dynamic Woman — Changing Times
Book Review: Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin
Grief is a weighty subject. Being unfamiliar with Gail Godwin, I feared the book might wallow in sadness. I chose to read it anyway because she had been recommended to me as an artful novelist. That she is.
The story gets off to a deceptively slow start. It soon picks up when eleven-year-old orphan Marcus meets his Aunt Charlotte. He quickly learns he must fit himself into her solitary lifestyle.
Dual point of view
The reader benefits from the dual point of view. A grown-up Marcus narrates the story but we experience his formative year through the eyes of his pre-teen self. The narrative tension is how long the boy can sustain denial before he is forced to confront his demons. His unwillingness to face his true situation is cosmic.
The New England beach town setting for Grief Cottage provides all manner of metaphors for the interior landscape of the human psyche. For example, Aunt Charlotte describes walking on the beach until you come to the end of yourself. Marcus takes that to heart. The concept of getting past yourself is repeated by a nonagenarian neighbor who yearns to strip away her identity until she encounters her essential being.
Ghosts populate the island. They take form as the restless specter of a teenage boy who died fifty years ago. They also present as the millennia-old spirit of the sea turtle whose survival instinct is tenacious. The descriptions of the tiny creature’s annual boil up from the sand and their run to the ocean are a bonus.
Godwin paints a rich tapestry of experiences for Marcus to enter into as he develops survival skills and does the hard work of growing up. This is not a gloomy book, but a clear-eyed story filled with hope.
© Sydney Avey