Grief Cottage: A Novel by Gail GodwinGrief Cottage: A Novel by Gail Godwin

Grief Cottage: A Novel

byGail Godwin

Paperback | May 8, 2018

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Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017 (Top 10)
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2017
Indie Next Summer 2018 Pick For Reading Groups

The haunting tale of a desolate cottage, and the hair-thin junction between this life and the next, from bestselling National Book Award finalist Gail Godwin.

After his mother's death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she'd moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.

The islanders call it "Grief Cottage," because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.

Grief Cottage is the best sort of ghost story, but it is far more than that--an investigation of grief, remorse, and the memories that haunt us. The power and beauty of this artful novel wash over the reader like the waves on a South Carolina beach.

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed books, including Publishing, a memoir, and the novels Flora, Father Melancholy's Daughter, and Evensong. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libr...
Title:Grief Cottage: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.29 × 5.48 × 1.11 inPublished:May 8, 2018Publisher:Bloomsbury USALanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1632867052

ISBN - 13:9781632867056

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Atmospheric and insightful literary fiction Marcus Harshaw is eleven years old, but he has an old soul. He and his mother lived together in semi-poverty sharing a bedroom. An only child, he was studious and dependable. Serious and academically advanced, Marcus excelled at school and helped his Mum who worked several part-time jobs... that is until one night she went out to get them a pizza and died in an automobile accident. Afterward, Marcus spent a short while in foster care until he went to live with his great aunt Charlotte Lee who lived on an island in South Carolina. An island three miles long and two-tenths of a mile wide. Charlotte is a laconic, solitary person. Some might say eccentric. She is his grandmother's sister - an artist - an alcoholic. She is unerringly kind to Marcus and keeps her three bottle a day wine drinking habit under 'control'. Marcus, at eleven, is always cognizant of the fact that he was foisted upon her and that he is invading her precious solitude. She lives on the beach in an old cottage which she had renovated herself. Now, she spends her time painting pictures of the local scenery to sell to well-heeled tourists and makes a good living with her art. One subject of her paintings is an old, derelict cottage down at the other end of the beach, one the locals call "Grief Cottage". It is this cottage that inspired her to paint, and it is this cottage that Marcus is drawn to... Though Marcus thinks she is merely tolerating him, Charlotte grows very fond of him over time. "You're good company, Marcus. You listen and put things together." The book is mostly taken up with Marcus's first summer living with Aunt Charlotte. An eleven year old boy reeling from the loss of his mother - suddenly living in an environment different to any he had known before. The beach became his solace. He would take his new bike up to Grief Cottage for a daily pilgrimage to visit with what he called 'the ghost boy'. He talked to the loggerhead turtle eggs which were beneath the sand near his aunt's boardwalk to the beach. He did the grocery shopping, the laundry, and all the house cleaning for the reclusive Charlotte. He made the meals and visited with the nonagenarian next-door neighbor, Coral Upchurch. He painstakingly unpacked the boxes that were all he had left of his mother and his former life. He found his mother's GED textbooks and studied them thinking that if he could pass the GED he would be out from under Charlotte's feet and she might be proud of him. The highlight of his summer was when the baby loggerheads 'boiled' up from under the sand and made their precarious trek to the ocean. Marcus fears that his introspective thoughts coupled with his 'seeing' of the ghost boy might make him lose his grip. He realizes he has always felt unwanted. "I needed to keep the different parts of myself in their proper places or I could go insane. Aunt Charlotte would be in her rights to send me to an institution." If I had a problem with anything in this novel it would be that I thought Marcus's character was too mature for his tender age of eleven. His thoughts were so intelligent, empathetic and advanced... He shouldered responsibilities that most eleven year-old boys would be completely unable to cope with. How many eleven year olds do you know who would 'worry' over the state of dirty bed linen? who would clean and disinfect the bathroom after a stranger had used it for an explosive bowel movement? The cover of this novel is perfect. Just as I imagined Aunt Charlotte would have painted it. The setting highly resonated with me as just this past March my husband and I drove down to South Carolina and visited some islands there, making the scenery accurately vivid in my mind. It reminded me of the history of the use of 'Gullah-blue' or 'Haint blue' paint used to ward off evil spirits in South Carolina. I loved that the book mentions "Brookgreen Gardens" which we visited and loved. The book even mentioned my favorite brand of tea, Typhoo. "Grief Cottage" is a memorable novel that explores the concepts of memory, grief, and of loss. Slow paced, yet insightful and sensitive, the novel is highly recommended to anyone who likes to read atmospheric literary fiction.
Date published: 2017-08-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Wanted More Once through the laying of the story foundation, the story proceeded to pick up. Would have loved more about the story of the cottage and its relationship with Marcus.
Date published: 2017-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Book Good Book, bit of a slow read. Well written with strongly developed characters and an interesting story line, but the plot is not fast moving is that is what you are looking. Would recommend!
Date published: 2017-07-06

Editorial Reviews

"[Godwin] remains a forensically skillful examiner of her characters' motives, thoughts and behavior. Grief Cottage revisits some of her favorite themes--fractured families, parentless children, the initial shock and long-term repercussions of death and disappearance, how the future can run off course in a flash--to make the very good point that it doesn't require a ghost to haunt a life . . . Deeply satisfying." - New York Times"Godwin may flirt with the magical, but she deals firmly with the realism of depression and loss. It's those psychological ghosts that Grief Cottage is really about." - Washington Post"Compelling . . . an ambiguous, beguiling tale in which the presence of the supernatural is entangled with--and perhaps precipitated by--characters who are undergoing an emotional crisis." - The Economist"Godwin's riveting and wise story of the slow coalescence of trust and love between a stoic artist and a grieving boy . . . subtly and insightfully explores different forms of haunting and vulnerability, strength and survival . . . Word will spread quickly about Godwin's tender and spellbinding supernatural novel." - Starred Review, Booklist"Godwin's forceful prose captivates with the quiet, renewing power of a persistent tide." - Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, "Best Books of 2017""An exquisite narrative . . . This grace-filled story probes aspects of life and death, isolation and family, and how great pain and loss can ultimately lead to unforeseen transcendence." - Starred Review, Shelf Awareness"Marcus' fascination with the ghostly presence of an adolescent boy, thought to have perished at Grief Cottage in a hurricane, allows Godwin to explore themes of loss, connection, and growth unfettered by the corporeal world." - Kirkus Reviews"Godwin, who has been nominated three times for the National Book Award and written some of the late-20th-century's most affecting prose, is at age 80 nothing if not centered and engaged. . . . Grief Cottage concerns an orphan named Marcus and some ghosts, but it's really about how each of us is haunted, even when we don't acknowledge it." - Lit Hub"Like Henry James's classic, The Turn of the Screw, Grief Cottage is less a paranormal thriller than an exploration of the psyche's creative tactics to survive trauma . . . Godwin shows she is still at the top of her craft, using the fragile link between living and spirit to illuminate a young man's coming of age in this keenly observed, powerful novel." - BookPage"Grief Cottage is an absorbing and wise novel. Gail Godwin convincingly expands the meanings of haunting well beyond the appearance of the ghost-boy who triggers Marcus Harshaw's uncanny--and canny--journey of self-discovery." - Washington Independent Review of Books "A compelling story of family and loss. Godwin's vivid prose, well-wrought characters and captivating plot will keep readers turning pages to the end." - Charleston Post & Courrier"Godwin again works her magic in a novel at once uplifting and somber. An author whose skills have entranced readers for 45 years, Godwin will turn 80 this month. But do not fret over a mere number, one which has in no way diminished her power to appeal to the intellectual and emotional sides of human existence . . . Grief Cottage melds literary and popular fiction, glows with Godwin's heart and humanity and reflects the wisdom of her years." - Richmond Times-Dispatch"[Godwin] knows how to make the atmosphere tense and make your skin tingle. At 80, the author, who grew up in Asheville and graduated from UNC, is returning to long-favorite themes: longings and loss, motherless children and the repercussions of death . . . Grief Cottage is not the fluffy stuff of many a summer beach read, but it's well worth a place in your beach bag this summer." - Raleigh News & Observer"Gail Godwin peers into the souls of her characters to find the healing nature of kindness, tolerance and love." - Minneapolis Star Tribune"Brilliant . . . Godwin's perfectly flowing prose reaches that elusive place where reality and fiction collide seamlessly. Her ability to infuse characters and settings with heartbreaking depth makes this novel unforgettable." - Woodbury"Godwin, a three-time National Book Award finalist, mixes horror and mystery tropes with literary musings on growing up and growing old. The result is a sort of supernatural bildungsroman, less a traditional ghost story and more a cautionary tale about the specter of impermanence . . . Full of curiosity and spectacle . . . the novel succeeds in questioning the uncanny and finding life even in a ghost story." - Atlanta Journal Constitution"A stately meditation on loss and longing." - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "Summer Reads""Godwin handles the supernatural deftly. It's up to the reader whether Marcus actually sees something or is letting his imagination run riot . . . Godwin's descriptions of beach life, from the quality of light over the water to a nest of sea turtles about to hatch, will make you want to drop what you're doing and head for the ocean immediately." - Star News (Wilmington, NC)"Whether the ghost is 'real' or the creation of a distressed psyche becomes irrelevant. As in Godwin's favorite story, Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, it could go either way, and despite the heat of the South Carolina summer, there is a peculiar chill in the air." - Alabama Public Radio"Can the needs of the living and dead sometimes merge? Eleven-year-old Marcus's desire to believe so leads him, and us, on a harrowing and unforgettable journey toward an answer. Grief Cottage further confirms that Gail Godwin is one of our country's very finest novelists." - Ron Rash, author of THE RISEN and ABOVE THE WATERFALL"No one writes about the psychological weight of the human condition like Gail Godwin. In Grief CottageGodwin is able to conjure on the page what few of us can conjure in our minds: the implications of loss and time and what it means to be haunted by both." - Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY and A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME