Seattle author hosts event at Eagle Harbor Book Company
June 6, 2012 · 4:03 PM
Seattle author Heather Barbieri presents “The Cottage at Glass Beach” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at Eagle Harbor Book Company.
The novel is a tale of a woman who, in the wake of scandal, flees to a remote Maine island to reconnect with her past — and to come to terms with the childhood tragedy that has haunted her for a lifetime.
"I think of the book as 'The Good Wife meets Alice Hoffman" — a blend of magical realism and domestic drama,' Barbieri said.
Barbieri's ancestors came from Western Ireland to the East Coast during the Famine, and the islands of New England have long held a fascination for her; their ruggedness, their sea glass, their storms and history.
"I’ve thought of setting a novel in that part of the world for years, but had yet to find the right story — until, on one of my walks, I ventured along a rock-strewn Puget Sound beach and glimpsed a seal, bobbing offshore," she recalled.
"The seal followed me the length of the shoreline, as if it were trying to tell me something. I remembered the myth of the selkie my grandmother had told me as a child, in which a fisherman caught one of the mythical creatures in his net and she became his wife, as long as he kept the fur she had shed hidden from her. I went home and did some research, discovering a lesser-known side to the tale — that selkies can be male too."
"Finally, the outline of a story began to take shape in my mind, one that cried out to be set in the northerly reaches of New England, just across the water from Ireland, where so many Irish immigrants had settled after coming to this country, as my ancestors had, too," she said.
"The Cottage at Glass Beach" is a book about love lost and found, family secrets, and of course, the enchantments of the beach.
The novel follows the life of Nora Cunningham, a 40-year-old who has it all: a handsome husband, Malcolm, the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts’ state history, and daughters, Annie, 7, and Ella, 11. That is, until she learns of Malcolm’s affair — and his refusal to give up his lover, turning their lives upside down.
At the height of the scandal, Nora receives an invitation to visit her maternal aunt, Maire. To escape the growing political storm and gain perspective on her marriage and complicated past, Nora packs up her daughters and heads to Burke’s Island, a remote island off the coast of Maine, originally settled by Irish immigrants. Nora hadn’t been there since she was 5, the summer her mother disappeared and she and her father moved to Boston, never speaking of the matter again.
One night, while sitting alone on Glass Beach, below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora lets down at last. Her tears flow into the sea, where, according to local legend, they might call a selkie, to console her. Not long afterward, Owen Kavanagh, a fisherman with a mysterious past, is shipwrecked on the rocks.
As the weeks pass, Nora finds more questions than answers on Burke’s Island, regarding her relationships, her mother’s fate, and her own identity.
For more information, call Eagle Harbor Book Company at 206-842-5332.