“Ms. Barbieri’s writerly sense of whimsy and retrospection implies that anyone can work through adversity to happiness—if only the volition is present.”
Nora Cunningham has the perfect role as wife to the youngest Attorney General ever in Massachusetts and mom to two daughters, Annie, seven and Ella, age twelve. Imagine the embarrassment she suffers when she learns husband, Malcolm, has a lover and refuses to give her up.
The press practically parks on her doorstep, so Nora decides to flee with her daughters to Burke’s Island on the coast of Maine. Prior to finding out about her husband’s infidelity, Nora receives a letter from her aunt Maire, with whom she has been estranged since her mother took off when Nora was only five.
Maire has discovered Nora’s father recently passed on, and since he did not allow any contact after he left with Nora to live in Boston, Maire determined it was the opportune time to try to reconnect with her niece.
Nora discerns that by going to the island where her past is buried will help her answer questions about herself and her capricious mom, as well as give her a respite from her husband and the chance to let her to determine her own future.
Upon arriving on the coast, Nora immediately feels a sense of belonging. Maire offers the three the use of the cottage where Nora was born. Though her recalcitrant eldest daughter does everything to impose guilt on her for leaving Malcolm and the only home she knew, Annie readily adapts to her new surroundings. She may be younger, but she acts wiser than her years and experiences a connection with the venue.
Somewhat distant at first, Nora breaks the ice with her aunt, desperately wanting to learn more about the mother she lost. Time passes, and Nora and both girls are drawn to Maire, loving to hear her stories about the island and their heritage, which includes Irish folklore.
Then one night, Nora notices a man stranded on the beach. In the midst of a horrific storm, she rushes out to rescue him. Something mystical seems to draw Nora to the dashing sailor. She is secretly thrilled when Maire offers him the use her fishing shack to live in while he recuperates and regains strength.
The Cottage at Glass Beach seems to contain an excess of flowery descriptions packed with similes and metaphors, though as the story develops, this actually adds to the authenticity of the mystery and mythology for which the island is famous.
Ms. Barbieri’s writerly sense of whimsy and retrospection implies that anyone can work through adversity to happiness—if only they have the volition.