The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri

The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri is about mothers and daughters and sisters and their tension and love filled relationships.  Nora Cunningham returns to Burke’s Island to get away from her scandalous political life in Boston with Malcolm and clear her head in upper Maine. Irish-American immigrant ancestors infuse her memories, memories she barely remembers from her younger childhood of her mother, Maeve, and their life together on the island before her mother’s disappearance. Nora reconnects with her aunt Maire as she begins to find her self — the person she is without Malcolm and the person she’s been deep inside.

“Her mother laughs.  Her voice is as sparkling as light on water.  The folds of her skirt cling to her legs.  She’d dived in fully clothed.  She isn’t like the other mothers with their rules and careful ways.”  (Page 1 ARC)

Nora’s daughters, Annie and Ella — ages seven and twelve — are like Maire and her sister Maeve used to be — one always cautious and one who lives in the moment.  Barbieri’s weaves in Irish folklore about selkies, seals that shed their skin to become humans on land.  These seals play a protective role in the story as they are always just off shore, watching carefully.  Soon, a man, Owen Kavanagh, washes up on shore near Nora’s cottage in the middle of a rainstorm.  But he’s not the only mysterious male on the island; there’s also a young boy named Ronan who befriends Annie.

“Indeed, a shiny head bobbed in the eddies that curled toward the shore, indigo depths between.  The creature met Nora’s gaze directly, its dark eyes wide and oddly human, before the children’s laughter drew its attention once more.”  (Page 18 ARC)

In many ways Ella and Annie act older than they are, but readers will see the toll that potential divorce can have on kids as their father makes a surprise visit to the island.  The island’s oasis atmosphere can be easily disturbed by outsiders, even if the inhabitants are eager to remain in between the past and the future like Nora.  However, how the characters react to those disturbances is a sign of strength and the support of their ancestors.  Barbieri blurs the lines between folklore and reality well here, and readers will be swept up in a cadence of storytelling that is reminiscent of Irish stories.

The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri is an oasis and a safe harbor in which Nora comes to reassess her life and decide how to move on after being deeply hurt by the one man she thought she could trust.  But she also must take into account the feelings and needs of her daughters, which is tough when harboring so much anguish.  A perfect summer read about mother-daughter bonds, bonds between sisters, and redemption.

Check out my review of The Lace Makers of Glenmara.

About the Author:

The author of two previous novels, The Lace Makers of Glenmara, and Snow in July, Heather Barbieri has won international prizes for her short fiction. She lives in Seattle with her family.  Please visit here on her Website and Facebook.



This is my 3rd book for the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge.




Mailbox Monday #175

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Martha’s Bookshelf.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received over the past two weeks:

1.  My Cross to Bear by Gregg Allman, which came unrequested from the publisher William Morrow and for which I will find a new home.

As one of the greatest rock icons of all time, Gregg Allman has lived it all and then some. For almost fifty years, he’s been creating some of the most recognizable songs in American rock, but never before has he paused to reflect on the long road he’s traveled. Now, he tells the unflinching story of his life, laying bare the unvarnished truth about his wild ride that has spanned across the years.

The story begins simply: with Gregg and his older brother, Duane, growing up in the South, raising hell with their guitars, and drifting from one band to another. But all that changed when Duane and Gregg came together with four other men to forge something new—a unique sound shaped by soul, rock, and blues and brimming with experimentation; a sound not just of a band, but of a family. . . .

2.  The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri, which is for a TLC Book Tour in May.

Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm.

Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters—Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve—and takes refuge on Burke’s Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides. . . .

3.  Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris from the author for review.

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost. . . .

4.  Ninepins by Rosy Thornton from the author for review.

Deep in the Cambridgeshire fens, Laura is living alone with her 12-year old daughter Beth, in the old tollhouse known as Ninepins. She’s in the habit of renting out the pumphouse, once a fen drainage station, to students, but this year she’s been persuaded to take in 17-year-old Willow, a care-leaver with a dubious past, on the recommendation of her social worker, Vince. Is Willow dangerous or just vulnerable? It’s possible she was once guilty of arson; her mother’s hippy life is gradually revealed as something more sinister; and Beth is in trouble at school and out of it. Laura’s carefully ordered world seems to be getting out of control. With the tension of a thriller, NINEPINS explores the idea of family, and the volatile and changing relationships between mothers and daughters, in a landscape that is beautiful but – as they all discover – perilous.

5.  Next to Love by Ellen Feldman, which Audra at Unabridged Chick sent for me to read.

It’s 1941. Babe throws like a boy, thinks for herself, and never expects to escape the poor section of her quiet Massachusetts town. Then World War II breaks out, and everything changes. Her friend Grace, married to a reporter on the local paper, fears being left alone with her infant daughter when her husband ships out; Millie, the third member of their childhood trio, now weds the boy who always refused to settle down; and Babe wonders if she should marry Claude, who even as a child could never harm a living thing. As the war rages abroad, life on the home front undergoes its own battles and victories; and when the men return, and civilian life resumes, nothing can go back to quite the way it was. . . .

6.  The Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman, another unsolicited copy from Algonquin that I will be finding a new home for.

In an age when physical books matter less and less, here is a thrilling story about a book that meant everything. This true-life detective story unveils the journey of a sacred text—the tenth-century annotated bible known as the Aleppo Codex—from its hiding place in a Syrian synagogue to the newly founded state of Israel. Based on Matti Friedman’s independent research, documents kept secret for fifty years, and personal interviews with key players, the book proposes a new theory of what happened when the codex left Aleppo, Syria, in the late 1940s and eventually surfaced in Jerusalem, mysteriously incomplete. . . .

7.  The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison, which also came unsolicited from Algonquin.

Benjamin Benjamin has lost virtually everything—his wife, his family, his home, his livelihood. With few options, Ben enrolls in a night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving taught in the basement of a local church. There Ben is instructed in the art of inserting catheters and avoiding liability, about professionalism, and how to keep physical and emotional distance between client and provider. But when Ben is assigned to nineteen-year-old Trev, who is in the advanced stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he discovers that the endless mnemonics and service plan checklists have done little to prepare him for the reality of caring for a fiercely stubborn, sexually frustrated adolescent. As they embark on a wild road trip across the American West to visit Trev’s ailing father, a new camaraderie replaces the traditional boundary between patient and caregiver. . . .

What did you receive in your mailboxes?

Giveaway: The Lace Makers of Glenmara

I recently read and reviewed The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri, and TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins are offering 1 copy for a giveaway.

U.S. and Canadian residents only are eligible.

Deadline is July 17, 2010, at 11:00 PM EST.

1.  Leave a comment about what place(s) you’d visit in Ireland.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link in the comments.

Good Luck!

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri

Heather Barbieri‘s The Lace Makers of Glenmara is set in Ireland as the main character, Kate Robinson, leaves her life in the United States to take the journey to her ancestral lands that she was supposed to take with her mother.   She leaves her home after failing to make it with her own clothing line and the break-up of her relationship with Ethan.  After a rough journey in the rainy countryside, Kate happens upon the small village of Glenmara and its quirky residents from motherly widow Bernice to abrasive Aileen.

“Everyone had been so sure she and Ethan would get married, that she would catch the bouquet at the medieval wedding they attended that March (the couple being devoted not only to each other but to the Society for Creative Anachronism), the event at which he left her, if not at the altar, just southwest of it, next to an ice sculpture of a knight in shining armor that had begun to melt, a moat of water at his feet, his sword soon no more than a toothpick.”  (Page 6)

Switching between points of view, Kate’s perspective is rounded out by the narration of William the traveler, Aileen, and Bernie.  Readers will be drawn into the stories of Kate and her friends as they search for peace and acceptance among themselves and others. Each of these women deals with not only sorrow and loss, but also shaken confidence.

“‘Like Colleen said, mistakes aren’t necessarily a problem,’ Bernie told her.  ‘Sometimes they lead you in a different direction.  Who says you always need to follow the rules?  Breaking the pattern can be the very best thing, even though it can be scary at first.'”  (Page 91)

Barbieri creates a cast of characters as tumultuous as the weather and diverse as the scenery of Ireland.  Kate is broken, and many of the other characters are broken as well.  It takes lace making and camaraderie to heal.  Glenmara, unfortunately, is a town in the middle of nowhere where religion is more than a passing moment on Sundays.  Can these women overcome their own fears and rekindle the beauty within themselves?

The prologue to the novel, however, that outlines what you need to sew and draws parallels between sewing and life changes is a bit overwrought, especially when Kate becomes part of the lace making guild.  Readers are likely to draw those parallels on their own without shining a bright light on it.

Meanwhile, the evolution of these characters and what they cultivate through their friendships is an amazing transformation for these women that will leave readers wondering what relationships in their lives have transformed them.  Barbieri’s writing is captivating and will pull readers into the Irish countryside.  An emotional evolution for the characters and readers set against the backdrop of beautiful Irish hills and cliffs.  Be ready to jump off and join them.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops.

About the Author

Heather Barbieri is half-Irish. Her paternal ancestors left counties Donegal and Tipperary  after The Great Famine and worked in the coal mines of Eastern Pennsylvania before settling in Butte, Montana. Her impeccably dressed maternal grandmother was a descendant of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and instilled an avid interest in fashion in her granddaughters. Barbieri’s first novel, Snow in July (Soho Press), was selected as a Book Sense Pick, a Glamour magazine “Riveting Read,” and a Library Journal Notable First Novel. Before turning to writing fiction full-time, she was a magazine editor, journalist, and film critic. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and three children, and is currently working on her third novel.

Also check her out on Facebook.

This is my 3rd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

This is my 36th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.