Hannah Gray is now an old woman, reliving the summer when she was seventeen and in love. She's revisiting her grandparents' house on the coast of Main...moreHannah Gray is now an old woman, reliving the summer when she was seventeen and in love. She's revisiting her grandparents' house on the coast of Maine and re-reading her journal from that summer. She was fighting with her stepmother, her father was back home in Boston, and the house they had rented was haunted but Hannah was the only one who could see that. She eventually stumbles on the tale of a gruesome murder with ties to the house when it was located on an island out on the bay. In a dual narrative, the book contains Hannah's journal and relates the events surrounding the murder.
I really just grabbed this out of a box of books that I borrowed from my aunt a long time ago and haven't finished reading. I glanced at the back and saw something about Maine and decided that sounded good to me. I was surprised to get a murder and a ghost!
Don't get the idea that this is a horror novel. There's a lot more going on here than that. The ghost seems to serve more as an illustration of the ways we hurt each other in countless ways, both big and small, and the way that bitterness and anger cause effects that ripple out from us and down through generations.
I liked Hannah and thought her parts captured that feeling of being young and in love and knowing that the world is too small to contain everything you feel. She just wants to do what she wants but she has her stepmother constantly trying to clip her wings. And Conary, the boy she loves--he's fabulous. I got the feeling that he could be a heart breaker but he's tender and caring and charming and almost perfect with Hannah.
The story about the Haskells and their miserable lives together is horrifying. They just about hate each other. Well, they really do hate each other. Claris and Danial are married in spite of her parents' misgivings. They see Danial more truly than Claris although she'd never admit it. Claris thinks his quiet demeanor hides a deep soul when really it hides a man who just wants to work and be hateful and not much else. The two warp their children and even drag a schoolteacher who is boarding with them down into their spite and hate. They're one of those couples that seems happiest when they're tearing each other apart. They were exhausting.
The harsh Maine landscape of the early twentieth century plays a part here too. A visit to Maine is definitely on my bucket list and the descriptions in this book only added to my desire to go. But the tough climate shaped a tough, proud bunch of people and that's reflected here. This is one of those books that just wouldn't be the same if it was set anywhere else.
I haven't read The Woman in Black but, based on the movie, I get the feeling that readers who enjoyed that would enjoy this book and vice versa.
When you're in the mood to explore the darker side of human nature, give this one a try. It's a quick, atmospheric read that won't disappoint.(less)
Dean Lynch is a Methodist preacher's wife, a role she finds nearly impossible to fill. She comes from a "white trash" background, to use her descripti...moreDean Lynch is a Methodist preacher's wife, a role she finds nearly impossible to fill. She comes from a "white trash" background, to use her description, so saying the right thing at the right time and being peaches and cream in all situations just doesn't come naturally to her.
When her husband is sent to minister in a church in Crystal Springs, Florida, Dean finally starts to find where she fits in. Unfortunately, that's not with all the catty church ladies. She befriends Augusta, a woman who left the church years ago, taking her husband, and more importantly, their money, with her. Augusta teaches Dean that life is too short to worry about what the church ladies are going to say.
This is a tiny thing but it has irritated the heck out of me ever since I read it. At one point, Augusta's young son Gus goes to visit family in Chapel Hill, NC over Christmas. He's thrilled because he'll get to see snow. And then I think snow is mentioned again in Chapel Hill. And then Chapel Hill is referred to as being in the mountains. No. It's not. Nor can it be relied upon to get snow. It's pretty rare down there. Maybe it was supposed to be another town at first and everything in the book wasn't changed to mesh with reality. Whatever happened, this bugged me.
I did mostly enjoy the book. I liked Dean quite a bit. I wanted to shake her a few a lot of times and tell her to grow a backbone, but otherwise we got along just fine. She goes on and on about how terrible her marriage is and how her husband's a jerk, which he is, but a lot of times I was left thinking that Dean was playing a huge part in marriage's slow crumble too. I'm supposed to feel bad for Dean because Ben is always gone but the book only says that. What I was actually shown was that Dean was always running off to Augusta's house and leaving Ben in the lurch. Show me, don't tell me. But as Dean grew into herself, she got better and better until I was ultimately proud of her.
I didn't care for Augusta as much. She was definitely a free spirit and she could be very generous and funny and fierce in defense of her friends. But she had a streak that I can only call selfish and cruel as well. I was appalled at her reactions to some scenes. Her moods swung so much that I kept hoping someone would drag her in to some sort of counseling. They were bad.
Things change toward the end and it got better for me. I finally had to sit down this evening and just see what was going to happen in all these messed-up lives.
There were a couple of supporting characters that just sort of disappeared. I liked them a lot and they had a terrible time of things but then they were gone. I wish there had been some sort of report on how they were doing.
The church people were just stereotypes and not fleshed out at all. Two handsome, charismatic preachers; the spiteful piano player; the ditzy, single singer; the politically-incorrect member with the money--I would have preferred that they not be so one-dimensional.
I came down harder on this than I meant to. It is enjoyable, I think I just got frustrated because it could have been even better. Still, it's a good read and definitely worth picking up, especially for a day at the beach.(less)