Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"The Cottage at Glass Beach"

Heather Barbieri is the author of the novels Snow in July and The Lace Makers of Glenmara.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her third novel, The Cottage at Glass Beach, and reported the following:
The Cottage at Glass Beach follows the story of Nora Cunningham, a political wife who retreats to a Burke’s Island, the remote community where she was born, seeking answers to her mother’s decades’-old disappearance, and to put distance between herself and the scandal surrounding her attorney general husband. But Nora finds more than she bargained for, as she struggles to confront the past and save her young children, who have embarked on a reckless journey of their own.

Is page 69 representative of the novel? It certainly provides a window into some of the central aspects of the novel, Nora’s memories of her mother, her relationship with her own children, and the enigmatic sea itself.

In this section, Nora is swimming in the cove near the cottage where she was born. Seals appear, leading her into deeper water, in both a literal and metaphorical sense, as she remembers her mother, Maeve, teaching her to swim, the seals ever-present and mysterious, then, as now.
She dove down, surfaced, stroking through the water with ease. It was as if the ocean itself were breathing, its swell the rise and fall of its chest, as if she breathed with it, inextricably connected. A seal appeared, then another, swimming alongside, leading her into deeper waters. She felt as if she could go on for hours, as if she might never stop.
. . . .

The seals had followed her and Maeve during the lessons.

“What do they want?” Nora asked.

“They’re curious. They wonder what sort of creatures we are.”

“What are we?”

“What do you want to be?”

“A sea creature.”

“Then that’s what you are.”
Nora is drifting away from her daughters, who wait closer to shore, pulled by the past and by the currents. Ella, the oldest, is unsettled by the sudden move to the island and her parents’ faltering marriage, worries most.
“Mom!” Ella cried.

Nora turned, treading water. She was outside the cove now. Ella stood on an outcrop, waving her arms and yelling. “Didn’t you hear me calling you? That’s too far!” She looked so small, standing there.
Page 69 definitely give a taste of the novel’s tone, complexity, characters, and evocative landscape, more of which awaits the reader on the other 301 pages.
Learn more about the book and author at Heather Barbieri’s website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lace Makers of Glenmara.

--Marshal Zeringue