The Cottage at Glass Beach, by Heather Barbieri

5 Stars! (with a heart)

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.

Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades—not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt's friend Polly suggests, a selkie—a mythical being of island legend—summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles?

Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own—a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.


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. 

This was, in a word - Amazing!  A beautifully written story, excellently developed characters, clearly painted scenes, a page turner from beginning to end. This book did it for me - it had it all.
A dysfunctional family - a cheating husband, a rebellious mouthy teen, and a family with a sordid past. It also had a little mystical, magical quality to it that was very unexpected! I loved it.

This story was sweet in parts, sometimes made you mad, and was sad in others. I kept tearing up in spots, not sobbing, but just little sad moments.
I think maybe this is the kind of book that you won't like as much if you can't relate to it - if you don't have children, if you have never had a man cheat on you, if you have never just wanted to run away and get away from the situation.
This book got a lot of negative reviews - I just don't see it. I really liked it! There were a lot of things left unsaid, but what the author doesn't say almost speaks louder than what she does say, the things left unsaid are just as important. And I understand why she did this. In a situation like this you don't know everything. You aren't meant to.

The character development was so good.One reviewer said that the kids didn't seem their age. I totally disagree with this! I thought the author got this spot on! They were smart kids, yes. But to me they certainly seemed age appropriate. Seven year old Annie was sweet, loving, and wanted so much to believe in something more - magic. Mouthy 12 year old Ella was... a brat! Aren't most 12 year old girls? They talk back to their mothers, think they know everything, try to rule the world. And even though they act like they know better about every situation than you do - they really don't have a clue. Nora, the mom, I loved her. I thought she made very smart decisions, she did not act quickly or on impulse, I think she had a plan, and I agree with what she did. I also liked the way she handled her children. I was always saying, in reference to my own daughter, you have to choose your battles. You can't yell at them about everything. You have to let some things go, and I thought she did this well. 
There were also a few minor characters that were also excellently developed. Maire, Nora's Aunt, whom I loved - she reminded me of Stockard Channing (in Practical Magic). And then there was Owen, the mystery man. Yes, he was a mystery, and he was never fully explained but I don't think he needed to be. I think it was better left as a mystery. It was more fun that way.

A lot of reviewers also complained about the ending so I was prepared - again I strongly disagree! I thought the ending was just right. I didn't feel left hanging at all! You all know how much I hate a non-endings, but this one definitely was tied up in the end, not everything, no, there some things that you aren't meant to know. That's the whole mystical quality about it.

One of my favorite quotes -
"Annie began waving. "I'm waving at the waves. They always wave back." - LOL I loved this line!
All in all I thought this was a great book! I really enjoyed reading it, every page of it. I loved the "magical realism" and all the angst of it. I loved the beach and the way the author describes everything so you feel like you are right there.
Hmm from what I remember, I don't think there was any swearing, there was one sex scene but not graphic at all, you just know that it happened.

This is a book I won from the "Beachy Reads Summer Hop" I won 4 beach books from Book Hounds! And this was one of them. Thank you so much! 



  1. Wow! It's great to find out how much you love a book that you won.

    This book sounds cute and I love the cover. Makes me want to go to the beach.

  2. I haven't heard much about this one, but now that I have read your review, I will have to read it when I can. It sounds like a really well developed book, with characters that you can relate to. Great job!

  3. So glad you loved this one! I won it a few months ago from Goodreads and just haven't gotten to it yet.